Every couple decades we recycle pop culture, from fashion to phrases. It is one of the aspects that makes sociology so interesting to observe.
Over time, generations have consistently pulled inspiration from previous ones while simultaneously advancing. You can look over the decades and see popularized trends, mindsets and the positive or negative results of each. Then a couple decades later, something similar happens.
History is once again repeating itself. However, unlike vintage armchairs and fanny packs, this time it’s proving to be deadly.
“Mechanization and mass marketing towards the end of the 19th century popularized the cigarette habit, however, causing a global lung cancer epidemic,” states a 2013 Standford University article. “Cigarettes were recognized as the cause of the epidemic in the 1940s and 1950s.”
Vaping with electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) has taken the world by storm. It is one of the most popular trends right now, with everyone from teens to soccer moms taking part.
For all the people who ridicule vaping, just as many partake in it. Much like its predecessor the e-cig has been mass marketed and widely accepted before we know the full extent of its effects.
Fruity and dessert flavored vaping solutions target younger consumers while vaping in general is marketed as a healthier alternative for veteran smokers. There are even annual contests where people compete to make the biggest clouds of vapor.
Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association, a non-profit raising awareness about smoking/vaping, reports the first successful e-cig was commercially produced in 2003. Vaping was introduced to American consumers in 2006.
As I said, we can’t fully research the damage caused by chronic vaping because it is still a new trend. However, according to the CDC, a confirmed 380 cases of lung illness have been reported across the nation, with six confirmed deaths as of Sept. 17. Each of these cases includes a history of vaping.
And the problem goes beyond e-cigs with nicotine. Even nicotine-free vape solutions contain harmful chemicals.
“Researchers at Harvard found that 39 of 51 e-cigarette brands contained diacetyl. The study also found two similarly harmful chemicals...pentanedione and acetoin — present in 23 and 46 (respectively) of the 51 flavors it tested,” states a 2018 American Lung Association article. “And roughly 92 percent of the e-cigarettes had one of the three chemicals present.”
In the early- to mid-1900s, we thought cigarettes weren’t harmful. Decades later, a black cloud of lung cancer blanketed the nation. Even so, the pressure to regulate cigarettes and ban related advertisements was slow-growing.
E-cigs were popularized in America a little over 10 years ago, and amidst unregulated advertisements, we are seeing fatalities.
But there is hope. Modern-day legislators seem to have learned from their predecessors.
According to a Sept. 10 Politico article, lawmakers are pushing Congress to regulate vaping with age restrictions, flavor bans and further investigations into its effects. State like Michigan and New York; and cities like Boulder, Colorado and San Francisco, California are among the states and cities to ban e-cigs with flavors that target younger consumers.
“The Trump Administration is making it clear that we intend to clear the market of flavored e-cigarettes to reverse the deeply concerning epidemic of youth e-cigarette use that is impacting children, families, schools and communities,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Sept. 11. “We will not stand idly by as these products become an on-ramp to combustible cigarettes or nicotine addiction for a generation of youth.”
I understand the appeal of e-cigs. They are marketed as less harmful and less addictive than traditional cigarettes. They look cooler and smell better, too. But the appeal, the promise of safety, stops at the surface level.
There’s a lot we can’t see yet when it comes to vaping and as much as I preach about embracing the unknown, this I don’t support.
As lawmakers work to regulate e-cigs, maybe we can get ahead of this trend before we have what researchers classified the result of the traditional cigarette boom as an epidemic.