Publish time: 2016-7-22 Views
"E-cigarettes are kind of a way of doing the same thing without getting the same harmful effects of the original cigarettes,” says 16-year-old Alexandra, a friend’s sister, who asked that her last name not be used.
Alex first tried "smoking" an e-cigarette, or "vaping," at a party. She said half of her friends vape, mostly when they hang out. But when it comes to smoking: "I only know like two people that actually smoke."
Her experience is familiar. I’m 20, and e-cigarettes are everywhere. Shuffling out of class, stumbling out of bars (I live in British Columbia where the drinking age is 19), or leaving a party, I see friends and classmates puffing e-cigarettes, large clouds of vapor swirling around them.
'Cool, Fun, Something New'
It’s hard to place my finger on exactly why friends think vaping is cool. It’s not cool the same way alcohol is seen as cool — universally so — but it's clearly cool in some circles. People will let you vape at parties and you don't get the same judgmental looks as you would with a cigarette.
A recent study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal claims the vibe of "cool/fun/something new” is what’s motivating kids to try e-cigarettes. Many of my friends crave new experiences and sensations; plus, who doesn't want to break the rules once in a while?
According to the CDC, in 2015, 16 percent of high school students reported using e-cigarettes in the last month. For comparison, teen cigarette use is thelowest it's been in 40 years, reports the CDC, with just 9 percent of high schoolers reporting smoking in the last 30 days.
The burning question for public health researchers is this: is all this e-cigarette use ultimately good for teens, because it keeps them away from nasty tobacco cigarettes? Or may it hurt them more than it helps them, because, as new research suggest, many kids who would never have smoked are willing to vape?
As one Boston-based researcher suggests, e-cigs help to "denormalize smoking," and may offer a public health boost.