V-A-P-I-N-G: Tobacco alternative the new cigarette?

By COLBY DENTON
Posted 6/19/19

While a common argument for the health benefits of vaping compared to cigarettes is that vaping is only made up of water vapor, according to Scott Elam with ATS The Bridge, that is not the case, and …

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V-A-P-I-N-G: Tobacco alternative the new cigarette?

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While a common argument for the health benefits of vaping compared to cigarettes is that vaping is only made up of water vapor, according to Scott Elam with ATS The Bridge, that is not the case, and anyone vaping is inhaling an aerosol which contains cancer-causing chemicals.

Vaping was the main discussion at Monday’s gathering of the Bradley County Interagency Council.

“If I asked everyone here what you’d think about smoking cigarettes, almost all of us could agree that it’s not good for us,” Elam said.

He displayed a variety of marketing advertisements used for tobacco products in the past, and noted how several of them even had completely false statements people believed at the time, like how smoking was good for pregnant mothers. Doctors even believed that smoking was beneficial to health.

During that time, it wasn’t socially acceptable to market cigarettes to women, so Big Tobacco changed its marketing campaign to make it socially acceptable, i.e. the pregnant smokers.

He then demonstrated how Big Tobacco changed its marketing once again in the 1950s to market to teenagers. A quote from Big Tobacco even stated, “The base of our business is the high school student.”

“When you introduce an addictive substance into an adolescent mind, the more profound of an impact it’s going to have on you,” Elam said. “I’m just talking about nicotine today, but I’m often talking about the effects opiates have as well.”

One particular ad that could target a wide audience, especially younger viewers, used the cartoon characters Wilma and Fred Flinstone from “The Flinstones.” Elam said this is planting the seeds of interest at a young age.

Eventually, the surgeon general implemented the familiar warning labels on tobacco products, which put a dent in Big Tobacco marketing. Once the public became more aware of the health effects of smoking, the products’ sales went down. This, Elam said, was the perfect time to introduce a new product and get the public’s attention on a newer, “healthier” product. Enter, the vape.

Vaping, while being introduced in some campaigns as being a better alternative to smoking and a great way to quit for adults, is heavily marketed toward youth, and some organizations have even faced sanctions over their blatant marketing to underage users. Regardless, the new factor has given vapes a significant leg up on smoking, and the lack of additional research conducted on vapes’ health effects gives Big Tobacco an easy alibi, Elam suggested.

“Who owns e-cigarette companies? It’s the same people selling cigarettes,” Elam added. “The players of today are the same players of yesterday. It’s just a different product now.”

A good example of this occurred in December 2018, when Altria, the largest tobacco manufacturer in America, paid $12.8 billion for a 35% stake in JUUL labs.

Vapes such as JUULs often come in a variety of sweet, enticing flavors like sour gummy worm, cotton candy and green apple, and Elam said this isn’t to entice adults like him, but young people. Some pods, including JUULs, can have as much nicotine as 20 cigarettes.

While smoking cigarettes has its obvious health effects, vapes are often glossed over because — according to tobacco companies — you’re only vaping water vapor. Elam said that is far from the truth, and vape companies are now openly using the term aerosol, with one even advertising for an “aerosol engineer” position.

Those who vape must be aware of the possibility to boost nicotine levels in vapes as well, as someone unaccustomed to a high nicotine level that uses a vape with a high level could get nicotine poisoning and die.

Vaping can also bring explosive consequences as well as their long-term ones, with some vapes exploding and killing their users.

“I go to schools all the time, and I can’t tell you how many times we’ll go in and the principals or teachers will tell us they just hauled three people out the day before for nicotine poisoning or opioid overdose,” Elam said.

He admitted that since cigarettes were popular, nothing but the mechanism has changed, and young people continue to be lied to about the products, which often infuriates them.

According to Elam, education and awareness are key to beating the cycle perpetuated by Big Tobacco.

For more information, visit atsthebridge.org.

The next Bradley County Interagency Council meeting takes place July 15 at Cleveland State Community College.

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