Monthly e-cigarette sales rise almost 50% over last three years
A new study from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows monthly e-cigarette purchases increased by almost 50% between January 2020 and December 2022. At the same time, the number of brands and sales of sweet vapor flavors increased similarly.
Dr. Bhagat Aulakh is a pulmonary critical care physician at OSF St. Francis Medical Center. He said the rise in use isn’t surprising. Even as the FDA applies more restrictions on the sale of tobacco products, Aulakh said e-cigarette makers can dodge regulations using synthetic nicotine derivatives in a largely unregulated market.
“I think kids are always looking for that new cool thing. Social media has driven some of this up, vaping is a phenomenon that's still tough to tackle because it targets specifically that population,” he said. “So I am not surprised that it's gone up because these industries keep reinventing themselves.”
Aulakh said many of the health risks associated with traditional tobacco and cigarettes are also present with e-cigarettes.
“Nicotine has a lot of cardiovascular health effects. It raises blood pressure. It can cause increased risk of strokes, heart attacks, things like that,” he said. “But the other compounds that no one talks about the juice, those also create toxic compounds. Formaldehyde gets produced, that's a carcinogen that's known.”
The continuing development of regulations on the e-cigarette industry can also contribute to risk factors. Aulakh said the presence of vitamin E and the flavoring compound diacetyl in some vape juice and disposable e-cigarettes can lead to significant lung injury.
“A few years ago, we saw this huge lung injury phenomenon occurring where young people were coming in with something called EVALI: Electronic Vape Associated Acute Lung Injury,” he said. “And they were pretty sick. I mean, this is not a joke by any means.”
Aulakh is particularly concerned with colorful devices and flavored vape juices targeting a younger demographic. He said e-cigarette can start as early as junior high.
“Nicotine on a developing young adolescent can inhibit growth, can affect nerves, cause neurocognitive impairment, memory issues,” Aulakh said. “We're still studying the long term effects of nicotine on a young population.”
Manufacturers initially introduced e-cigarettes as a way to curb smoking.
“Have I used this as a solution? Yeah, absolutely,” Aulakh said. “I've had some of my patients ask, ‘Can I try this instead?’ Knowing that there's going to be less harmful compounds numerically compared to traditional cigarettes.”
Aulakh said there’s still a long way to go educating young people on the risks of electronic cigarettes and he would like to see more legislation around the products.
“I don't have any magic solutions. I think this is going to take some time, obviously, we've seen a rampant growth in these types of devices,” he said. “So I'm sure there's a lot of places that are working on this right now.”
You can find the full CDC study here.