The fact that smoking kills people is well known. Smoking is the direct cause of 1 in 5 deaths in America. Smoking costs the American healthcare system over 300 Billion dollars a year in direct costs. Smoking is bad for you.
Until recently, Americans seemed to be getting the message. In 2005, 21% of Americans were smokers and in 2017 the number had dropped to 14%. Way to go America. But then along came e-cigarettes and vaping and now we’re losing the battle again.
E-cigarettes are electronic devices, some as small as a USB drive, that heat nicotine combine it with flavoring and deliver the product as an aerosol spray to the user. While there is some data that supports the concept that e-cigarettes are better for a person’s health than cigarette smoking, there is NO data that e-cigarette smoking is healthy. Quite the contrary, compared to not smoking at all, there is an incredible amount of data that says that e-cigarettes are dangerous. Nicotine is still highly addictive and has been proven to cause brain damage especially in people under 25.
And therein lies the problem.
The manufacturers of these e-cigarette products are actively targeting young people though the use of clever social media advertising and the addition of flavoring such as fruit medley, mango and mint. Further, the FDA has allowed on line sales of these products with minimal oversight. This is a healthcare disaster and needs to be quickly addressed.
But the solution is not simple; and anyone who says otherwise is wrong. If an adult current smoker can use an e-cigarette product to transition away from cigarette smoking with the eventual goal of quitting entirely, e-cigarettes are a good thing. If a child or young adult is hooked on nicotine and suffers irreversible brain damage by using e-cigarettes, that is bad.
Patients, parents, health care providers and politicians need to be fully aware of the massive healthcare risks associated with these products. Simply raising the age when someone can buy these products while appealing in its simplicity is not the correct answer. Numerous studies have shown that age limits do not change behavior, in fact, there is some data that says raising the legal age to buy cigarettes actually increases the “cool” factor of cigarettes and increases underage usage. Rather steps such as banning flavoring combined with strict rules on advertising and a strong public education push have been shown to help reduce smoking and prevent young adults from ever starting to use these very dangerous products.No one likes being lectured; I understand that. But as America continues to struggle with how to pay for our massively expensive healthcare system we need to be aware of the numerous ways that we are increasing the costs of healthcare through completely preventable diseases. Not only would America be healthier if no one smoked, just think of what America could do with the 300 billion dollars a year we would save.