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E-cigarettes, which officially entered the U.S. marketplace in 2007, are electronic devices that appear similar to regular cigarettes but are designed to deliver a chemical solution, such as nicotine. They are commonly referred to as “vapes” or “juuls.” Due to their popularity among the younger generation, they are now considered an epidemic.

Although there is currently still more to be understood regarding the long-term effects of e-cigarettes, there are growing concerns about their potential to cause lung injury and other health problems. The American Lung Association (ALA) is concerned that the use of e-cigarettes could lead to the loss of a generation to tobacco-related diseases.

The ALA is also worried about the rise in use of e-cigarettes by youths. According to the CDC, over 2 million middle and high school students reported having used these products in 2021. This growing concern has called upon the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take additional steps to protect children from these products.

What Are E-Cigarettes?

E-cigarettes are devices that are designed to deliver nicotine and other chemical solutions to users. Unlike traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes are designed to allow individuals to breathe in an aerosol containing specific substances. The heating element used in these devices, which is usually a cartridge, creates a chemical-filled vapor.

What Do E-Cigarettes Contain?

The main components of e-cigarettes include the tanks or cartridges that contain the liquid used to create the vapor. In order to create an e-liquid, the tobacco used is extracted and mixed with a base chemical, which is usually propylene glycol. Some of the other chemicals used in this process include colors and toxic flavorings that can result in lung damage.

What Are the Dangers of E-Cigarettes?

Even small amounts of exposure to two frequent components of e-cigarettes, vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol, can expose users to dangerous toxins. This finding suggests that the use of these products could lead to the development of lung injury. Despite the lack of definitive information regarding the long-term effects of e-cigarettes, it is clear that they pose a potential risk.

What Is Being Done to Protect the Younger Generation From E-Cigarettes?

The American Lung Association and other public health organizations sued the FDA in March 2018, challenging its decision to allow the sale of electronic cigarettes and other tobacco products for years without approval.

A federal judge ruled in favor of the American Lung Association on May 15, 2019, concluding that the FDA should have established a thorough pre-market review process for e-cigarettes and other new tobacco products. 

In the latest effort to protect youths from e-cigarettes, the legislation raised the minimum age for the sale of tobacco products to 21 in all 50 states. The hope is that these regulations will lessen the negative impact that these products have had on adolescents.