We need to stop e-cigarette use before it ruins a generation like tobacco did

Scented clouds might make vaping seem harmless, but it actually disguises harmful nicotine addictions

E-cigarette ads targeting youth are shockingly familiar and need to stop. Illustration: Alice Zhang/The Peak

Editor’s note: This piece has been updated to reflect the fact that Juul does not advertise to youth or intend its product for youth consumption.

By: Lubaba Mahmud, Staff Writer

We have to stop being so naive about e-cigarettes. At present, the same mistakes of the previous generations are being repeated that allow young people — high school students and university students alike — to become addicted to a more technologically advanced poison than cigarettes. The more we study e-cigarettes, the more we learn that they are anything but safe.

To start, e-cigarette use leads to nicotine addiction. E-cigarettes aren’t just flavouring and swirling puffs of vapour; 99% of them do in fact contain nicotine. For this reason, doctors recommend that teens and individuals who aren’t already addicted should not use e-cigarettes in order to avoid dependency. Studies have shown that early use of nicotine makes it harder to quit, and easier to become hooked on other addictive substances.

The reason for anxiety around nicotine addiction in youth is due to the very serious consequences for brain and nerve functions. 

While it is true that e-cigarettes are a healthier alternative to tobacco products because users aren’t inhaling a multitude of toxic chemicals, this reported safety is marginal at best, and even then only for those already addicted to nicotine. While it shouldn’t need to be said, inhaling any sort of artificial chemical is going to cause lung disease. The links between e-cigarettes and fatal disease are already becoming apparent. 

What’s even more troubling is the ease with which e-cigarettes have filled the iconic hole left by tobacco companies in youth culture. Juul, one of the most popular e-cigarette brands, is used in memes and cartoon imagery by social media influencers. While Juul itself isn’t responsible for these digital images, they are eerily similar to the old advertisements produced by tobacco companies. Young people should know better than to be taken in by these harmful images. 

Images featuring young and playful models in colourful scenes across social media are meant to attract our attention. The product itself is meant to keep people addicted, to keep them buying. Unfortunately, it also may be slowly killing many of them. 

As SFU students, we need our focus for long hours of study. We can’t afford to have that interrupted by the effects of nicotine consumption. But neither can we afford to lose the futures we’re working so hard towards right now. Remember the lessons of the past. E-cigarettes are no more safe than tobacco is — in fact, they’re more similar than you might realize.