Teen vaping: As government looks at restrictions experts say epidemic is driven by flavors

Denise Dador Image
Thursday, September 12, 2019
Youth vaping epidemic driven by flavors, experts say
The Trump administration is proposing to ban thousands of flavors used in vaping devices.

The Trump administration is making some bold moves to address the e-cigarette epidemic among teens.

They're proposing a ban on flavorings used in e-cigarettes.

Doctors and other health advocates have been asking the government to crack down on flavored vaping liquids because of the appeal to those under 18.

When 17-year-old Jennyfer Cortez was in middle school, friends convinced her to try an e-cigarette. The blueberry-scented aerosol drew her in. But as soon as she inhaled:

"Immediately after one hit, my lungs and throat were burning. I didn't enjoy it so after one hit, I said no," she said, "I feel like it was peer pressure."

That was enough to convince Cortez not to try it again, but many of her classmates continue to vape.

Many are lured in by the flavorings that taste like cotton candy or mango. New research from the American Heart Association reveals those sweet smells are what motivate people to start e-cigarettes.

Emergency medicine physician Dr. Jessica Sims with the American Heart Association said: "They like to try new things. That's just the nature of teenagers. They're still developing, they're still testing their boundaries. And when they're testing their boundaries in this way, they get hooked."

Now comes the Trump administration's announcement proposing to ban thousands of flavors used in vaping devices.

The FDA will develop guidelines to remove all e-cigarette flavors except tobacco from the market.

The American Vaping Association believes destroying thousands of small businesses will only strengthen underground sales activity.

The AVA says "A flavor ban will only lead to the creation of yet another multi-billion dollar black market that will operate with zero safety controls."

Sims is pleased the administration is taking urgent steps.

"The lungs are one of the few parts of the body that has direct exposure to the outside so you have to be careful about what you expose it to," she said.

The flavorings in vaping liquids may be safe to ingest but not to inhale. Dr. Sims says it's like water: It's OK to drink, but once you inhale it, you drown.

"Ingesting something is not the same as inhaling something," Sims said.

Cortez said, "At school I see kids vape. I see them vape in the restroom, the locker room, the gym, and the weight room."

She hopes the ban will help many of her classmates quit vaping before it's too late.