When our parents were growing up, it would not have been uncommon to see teenagers buying cigarettes. Smoking, in those days, was a social event; at one point you could smoke in restaurants, on airplanes and even while pregnant.
Today, it is much more common to see a teenager clutching a vape pen than a cigarette.
But unlike traditional cigarettes, the common perception is that electronic cigarettes are healthier and are a good way to quit smoking.
A new study published this month showed a connection between an increase in traditional cigarette smoking in youths, when combined with an earlier usage of electronic cigarettes.
These teenagers are just more than 30 percent more likely to begin using traditional cigarettes after starting out using e-cigarettes. Reuters reported that about one in 20 adults are also e-cigarette users.
What is scariest about this smoking fad is that many people truly believe it is healthier for them than traditional smoking. More than half of teenage users think there is nothing more than water in their e-cigarettes, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In actuality, many e-cigarettes contain nicotine, chemicals and other flavorings.
While vaping does provide less of a risk of lung cancer, according to Penn Medicine, the combination of chemicals can instead cause liver damage, retinal damage and blindness.
This means that in addition to opening themselves up to incurable cancer with traditional smoking, users face long-term struggles with damage to other parts of their body caused by e-cigarettes.
The health concerns are not the only reason why smoking is a waste of time. Buying the supplies needed for cigarettes can add up to a lot of money — money that a lot of college students should not be spending.
Smoking also encourages a life of isolation, since non-smokers do not wish to be around smokers. For those with addictive personalities, smoking could start as a gateway before moving onto drugs or alcohol. That conclusion may seem like a reach, but is not impossible.
I question how long it will take, as well as what it will take, for users to come to the realization that no form of smoking is ever going to be possible without any health risks. Until e-cigarettes become socially taboo like traditional ones are, it is hard to see teenagers voluntarily giving them up.
For many, sadly, this change in opinion may come after years of smoking both kinds of cigarettes have already done their damage.