To “vape” means to inhale and exhale the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device. (Photo by Getty Images)
Always spotting trends on the rise, last year’s Oxford English Dictionary “Word of the Year” was “selfie” — and we’ve seen no shortage of personal snaps, selfie-centered books and namesake TV shows spawned since the announcement.
That’s why this year’s buzzword is cause for real concern.
As proof that e-cigarette use has reached mainstream audiences, the folks at the Oxford dictionary have just announced “vape” as their word of 2014. In case you’re unfamiliar, the term means “to inhale and exhale the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device.”
Shocked? Maybe we shouldn’t be. This news comes just a week after the Centers for Disease Controll and Prevention reported that e-cigarette use has tripled among teenagers in just two years. More than a quarter of a million youth who had never smoked a cigarette used electronic cigarettes in 2013. Today, 4.5 percent of high-school students use e-cigarettes on a regular basis, and 12 percent have tried them at least once.
While some people think vaping is a decent (and safe) alternative to smoking tobacco products, that’s far from certain due to the lack of large-scale research yet to be conducted on e-cig use.
“You are still breathing in problematic substances,” says Dr. Michael Roizen, chief wellness officer at the Cleveland Clinic. “We know electronic cigarettes have addictive nicotine, potential carcinogens, and hinder lung function,” Roizen tells Yahoo Health.
A 2014 Surgeon General’s report found that and nicotine use can have adverse effects on adolescent brain development, and said that nicotine use by youth in any form — combusted, smokeless, or electronic — is unsafe.
What’s worse: The CDC found that 44 percent of non-smoking youth who had ever used e-cigarettes said they intended to smoke conventional cigarettes within the next year. "Since the group of users gaining the most traction is teenagers, it almost feels like e-cig usage is just a step toward graduating to full-fledged cigarettes,“ says Roizen.
The CDC reports that nearly 23 percent of teenagers currently use a tobacco product. And unless that trend sees a decline quickly, 5.6 million kids up to age 17 today will die prematurely from a cigarette-related condition.
“Nine out of ten smokers tried their first cigarette by age 18,” said Dr. Tim McAfee, director of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, in last week’s report. “We must do more to prevent our youth from using tobacco products, or we will see millions of them suffer and die prematurely as adults. Fully implementing proven tobacco control programs would help keep our youth from falling victim to tobacco.”
We need to prevent kids from smoking, in general — tobacco products, e-cigs, or otherwise. If we don’t, today’s e-cigarette users could be tomorrow’s tobacco users. For now, unfortunately, smoking is still proving cool for millions. Especially young people.
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