Trends and Online Media: Increase in Tobacco Use Among Adolescents

Recent statistics from a literature review in theJournal of Pediatric Nursingshow an increase in the use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) among adolescents. From 2011 to 2012, use went up among high school and middle school students (1.3% and 0.6%, respectively). Even though there are few studies on the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes, the upward trend in use by adolescents could have negative implications.

The authors found that companies making e-cigarettes imply they are a healthy alternative to tobacco products and regular cigarettes. However, most e-cigarettes have nicotine in them, which is known to increase the risks of heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers. Adolescent users of e-cigarettes can still become addicted to nicotine and be willing to eventually switch to the use of real cigarettes.

The lack of restrictions on the sale of e-cigarettes contributes to the issue: in the United States, because they do not contain tobacco, there are no restrictions on who can buy e-cigarettes, leaving them easy for minors to access. They also come in flavors such as bubble gum, cookies and cream, strawberry, and gummy bear. Manufacturers report not targeting their product to children, but these flavors tend to attract adolescents, who perceive these new products positively.

Until more research is done, there is no way of knowing how harmful the use of e-cigarettes can be—but, the potential is there. It is important for health care providers and pediatric nurses to warn adolescents, and their parents, about the risks and dangers of e-cigarette use.

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