By Craig Andrus Bryan County Health Department
January 28, 2014
As a young boy I remember sitting at my uncle’s house listening to him as he talked about how all the boys in his neighborhood would go door to door to round up a game of baseball. He would talk about how some things change but remain the same as he now saw me rounding up kids using the latest technology, the telephone, only a few decades later. Now that I am older, I see the same thing happening just as it did during the last two generations but with a new twist. Today a cell phone “text” or a Facebook “like” have replaced going door to door and the phone call.
But the need for kids to get together isn’t the only thing that has remained the same. Kids today, just like kids back then, want to imitate the behaviors of the people they admire. And sometimes those behaviors can be deadly. The conversations with my uncle highlight this as he would go from the small talk of baseball to his warning me about the recreational use of chewing tobacco. He told me that before or after their friendly baseball games he and his buddies would chew tobacco because that’s what baseball players did! And, when kids couldn’t get the real thing they were able to easily get a substitution. It was interesting to me that when he was a kid there was a chewing gum that was shaped to look like chewing tobacco and how it was used by the guys whenever they couldn’t get their hands on the real stuff.
The same thing happened to me and my crew but instead of chewing tobacco it was cigarettes. Rock stars and the tough guys on TV always had a cigarette and, to a 9 year old this was translated as being cool and no way harmful. Fortunately for us cigarettes weren’t the easiest things to get our hands on so we would have to settle just like my uncle and his friends did. We settled by going to the same stores that sold real cigarettes and buying “candy” cigarettes. This candy didn’t taste like or require fire to be consumed but looked just like a cigarette, even down to the packaging, therefore assuring we looked cool.
Today’s kids are the same as those of earlier decades. They still want to be cool and those rock stars and the tough guys on TV continue to be live billboards promoting the “coolness” of the tobacco lifestyle. The only difference is that there is a more technically advanced and totally legal option to achieve this “coolness.” Their tobacco replacement isn’t limited to the earlier candy and gum versions but, instead, is an E-Cigarette. These battery powered devises do not contain tobacco. With no tobacco restrictions minors are allowed to purchase and own these popular devises, a tactic which lures in young adults big tobacco identifies as “replacement smokers” who they hope will become nicotine addicted.
E-cigarettes contain nicotine, the prime chemical ingredient in regular cigarettes. This chemical is known for its addictive properties. E-Cigarettes contain a mechanism that heats up liquid nicotine which in turn gives off an odorless vapor. But, despite its lack of scent, an e-cigarette is just as distracting to non-smokers and lacks the research to back up its claims of being harmless.
For several generations the American public has been witness to Big Tobacco’s not so subtle promotion targeted toward our innocent youth. I what’s up next for the proceeding generation.
E-cigarettes appear to be the new “It” thing all across America. These nicotine devises are being used in commercials, movies and even in some of our favorite music artist’s videos. There is no denying that e-cigarettes and vapors are becoming more popular amongst today’s party going society and the numbers show Oklahomans are all for keeping the nicotine party going. A new study by the 2013 Oklahoma Youth Tobacco Survey (OYTS) shows more Oklahoma children than ever before are trying electronic cigarettes. Researchers found nearly 18 percent of high school students across the Sooner state are using e-cigarettes. Almost seven percent of middle school age students have tried them. Nationwide, e-cigarette use among middle and high school students nearly doubled between 2011 to 2012.
“The use of vapor products among youth is concerning, as nicotine is a highly addictive substance that may negatively affect the developing brain,” said State Health Commissioner Terry Cline. “It’s important that we protect youth from exposure to these products, just as we work to protect youth from exposure to all tobacco products.”
I believe the look, multiple flavors and “smokeless” nature of e-cigarettes encourage Oklahomans to begin practicing this new habit in the belief that it isn’t harmful while still being “cool”. Some people even use e-cigarettes as a tobacco-cessation tool, despite a lack of formal approval for that purpose. Though the jury is still out on e-cigarettes there are plenty of reasons to put them down before picking them up. It isn’t cool to be sick or to annoy others and besides when was the last time you saw a commercial, movie or music video you believed to be real life anyway.