Alabama Residents Fear Vape Trends in Children

Alabama sources talked about how e-cigarette companies are mimicking cigarette advertising strategies by targeting teenagers and children.

By Jennifer Johns
News Reporter

TUSCALOOSA– Chad Clayton puffing vape smoke during his work break.

Alabama residents shared concerns over child advertising as e-cigarette trends among youth continue to climb.

For Allen Ambrose, a certified respiratory therapist at Jackson Hospital in Montgomery, seeing the damage of smoking comes with the job. Every day, Ambrose assesses patients’ cardiopulmonary status, oxygenation and ventilation stats. Ambrose said there is not enough information to definitively say how e-cigarettes harm the body.

In an article for Johns Hopkins Medicine, Dr. Michael Blaha wrote that teenagers believe e-cigarettes are less harmful, more cost effective and tastier than cigarettes. Research, however, has found that is not the case.

Blaha said nicotine is toxic, and by raising a person’s blood pressure and adrenaline, there is an increased risk of a heart attack.

Chad Clayton, a senior majoring in respiratory therapy at the University of Alabama, started vaping like many teenagers do. Peer pressure led to Clayton smoking cigarettes in high school, and he tried vaping when he was 17 years old.

“I didn’t care about vaping at first,” Clayton said. “I had friends into it toward the beginning of the phenomenon.”

Clayton said around that time, a newly designed box mod, a type of vaporizer with a larger battery than vape pens, came on the market that had all the bells and whistles. After vaping on and off over the next few years, Clayton said he really started to pick up vaping six months ago after furthering his school studies.

“I kept coming back to that I know what’s in cigarettes, and there is no way vaping could be worse than cigarettes,” Clayton said.

Clayton said he has been smoking less by vaping than he was smoking traditional cigarettes.

“Some flavors taste like candy,” Ambrose said. “Will it be the next Joe Camel?”

Joe Camel was a cartoon character created for Camel Cigarettes, and he quickly became an icon in their advertising. The cartoon was taken out of all advertising campaigns by 1997 after R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. came under fire from both anti-smoking activists and medical professionals for using the cartoon to appeal to children.

Blaha cited three reasons e-cigarettes entice young people: belief vaping is less harmful than smoking, lower cost per use and inviting flavorings like watermelon or cinnamon.

The National Institutes of Health reported 37.3 percent of 12th-graders vape (nicotine, marijuana and just flavor), an increase from 27.8 percent last year.

Clayton said he was in favor of the original intent of the product, which was to help people like him quit smoking. He said once they started targeting children, he saw the companies did not care about helping anyone.

Dr. Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control, said for an NBC News article that the same advertising tactics tobacco companies used in the past to get kids addicted to nicotine are now being used to entice a new generation of young people to use e-cigarettes. He said images like rebellion, sex and independence fuel marketing strategies geared toward teens.

“From personal experience, just because something looks cool, doesn’t mean it is,” Clayton said. “You will develop a habit that you don’t want to get yourself into.”