According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Alabama high school students are following a growing trend of using e-cigarettes, also known as electronic nicotine delivery systems, or ENDS. Their use among high-school students more than tripled from 2013 to 2014. The 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that nearly a quarter of high school students are regular users.
ENDS are devices that deliver nicotine to the user through “vapor” rather than smoke. They do not require a flame and may be used one puff at a time. Actually, the “vapor” isn’t vapor at all. It is a concentrated aerosol that is created when a liquid containing mostly vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol, flavoring, and nicotine is heated by a battery-powered atomizer. This aerosol mixture is then inhaled by the user.
Today, the more popular ENDS products are refillable and reusable and can be customized with different flavored liquids, commonly known as e-juice or vape juice, different levels of nicotine, and other features that make these products appealing to youth and young adults.
Much debate centers on whether these products are “safe.” Currently, Alabama does not regulate ENDS in any way. We may not know the harmful ramifications of this product for decades, and there is every chance that their use may be a gateway for users to develop an addiction to nicotine that could last a lifetime. ENDS are not necessarily an alternative to cigarettes; some people use both products.
In Alabama, ENDS purchasers must be at least 19 years of age. However, unlike tobacco products, retailers currently are not required to obtain a permit to sell them. Therefore, these products are not subject to the same compliance checks as traditional cigarettes.
In 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finalized a rule extending its regulatory authority to cover all tobacco products, including vaporizers, vape pens, hookah pens, e-cigarettes, e-pipes, and all other ENDS. FDA now regulates the manufacture, import, packaging, labeling, advertising, promotion, sale, and distribution of ENDS. This includes components and parts of ENDS, but excludes accessories.
More research needs to be conducted on the long-term health effects from the use of these products. While it is true that ENDS do not contain the same cancer-causing chemicals as traditional cigarettes, some health risks are still involved with their use.