(COVINGTON, La.) — The United States is faced with an epidemic: teenage nicotine consumption. While cigarette use among teens is at an all-time low, vaping has skyrocketed and has become the prevalent form of nicotine consumption among teenagers. In fact, research from the CDC shows that now nearly one in four teens are vaping, indicating that nicotine consumption hasn’t decreased: it has shifted.
Public opinion supports the notion that teens don’t care about their health, asserting that the reason why so many students drink and vape is because they think that they’ll live forever. However, the main issue involved with people over 30 making assumptions on the teenage mind is pretty obvious: the last time they were a teenager the biggest national concern was disco fires. Adults simply can’t understand what is going through the minds of teenagers, regardless of the fact that they used to be teenagers themselves. As people age they forget who they used to be or what they used to think; memory is warped with time.
So, as a teenager, I’d like to correct the misconception that teens vape and drink and because they think they’ll never die. While that may apply to some people, it is vastly overgeneralizing millions of people and grossly underestimating the minds and maturity of many teenagers. The real reason why so many teens vape is because of misleading information from vape companies as well as misguided ad campaigns aimed at reducing nicotine use.
Vape companies brand themselves as a safe alternative to cigarettes, and governments and research organizations affirmed this idea. Public Health England, a highly accredited research institute, touted that vaping is 95 percent less harmful than smoking and vaping companies jumped on the statistic. People then took this to mean that vaping is harmless, which it is certainly not. Vaping can lead to popcorn lung, a fatal lung disease, and nicotine addiction, which some studies find lead teens to be seven times more likely to smoke cigarettes. The real issue is that research like this has inadvertently marketed vaping to teens. Regardless of some of the health risks, most people who vape see it as safe because of studies like these. It is the fault of these groups pushing vaping to smokers that it has caught on so hotly.
Seeing this, organizations such as the FDA fund and create ad campaigns in order to combat teen nicotine addiction. Unfortunately, many of these prevention advertisements are utterly out of touch with teens and seemingly the whole of society itself. These advertisements are bizarre, unfunny, pandering, and downright insulting to the intelligence of their intended audience. Because of this lack of understanding of what teens like or how they even think, insulting garbage like this is made. This video is a perfect example of why many drug prevention programs are ineffective.
Teenagers, just like anyone else, don’t want to be talked down to. They don’t want a flashy, trash-fire of an ad campaign shoved in their face that misrepresents them and treats them like idiots. The public has failed by putting vaping up on a pedestal and then failing to prove to teenagers that it has negative consequences. A teenager is going to see the shrill garbage that’s supposed to be targeted at him saying that vaping is bad and immediately disregard it in favor of the professional article by Public Health England.
So, what is the FDA to do? The answer is simple: just treat teenagers like you would any other person. Facts and accounts of the dangers involved in vaping are bound to be far more effective than any muppet making boat noises ever could. Frankly, these videos and ad campaigns aren’t fixing anything, they’re just insulting. It’s high time to abandon these ideas and start from scratch if anything is to be done about reducing teen vaping. If prevention campaigns stay on this course, then all may be lost.
“Smarticle” is the regular column by writer and editor Hal Fox, in which he addresses issues from media to politics to whatever he feels like.