Looking back on teens and e-cigs

by Emerald Barney

I’ve wanted to go into advertising for nearly seven years. I try and stay up to date on new advertisements as well as new regulations relating to advertising. At the end of 2018, the FDA was putting regulations on JUUL because they were putting out “fun” ads – bright colors, young actors, and new flavors. This was targeting teens in a way that was familiar, but it was for a product that was illegal for teens to use – nicotine.

When I came up with the idea, Utah legislators were thinking along the same lines up on the hill. Rep. Paul Ray wanted to impose an 86% tax on vape products, which seemed outrageous to me. I wanted to talk to him about it and the reasoning for it being so high. I also wanted to talk to vape shop owners to see how they felt about the FDA regulations and the bill proposed by Rep. Ray. The shop owner brought up a good point that if they wanted to limit teen use, they would tackle the online age verification issue as that’s where most kids are getting their products.

I also wanted to talk the people I know who use e-cigarettes, as we all grew up with this idea that drugs are bad, and they will kill you. I was curious why they started, why they continue, and what they think about the negative effects. What interested me was that every one of my friends told me they thought it was safer than smoking – as if that is the only alternative as opposed to not doing drugs.

The biggest issues I had was when I felt conflicted on what I wanted to report on. There is so much data from the FDA about how it can harm teens, but then after talking to the shop owners, I realized it isn’t their fault teens are addicted. They can’t always be the ones trying to discourage teen use and enforce it as well. I decided to make the points of both sources, strengthening the idea that no one wants teens to become addicted. The thing I found most interesting were that my friends spend anywhere from $30-$90 a month to keep up with their habits. The bill proposed by Rep. Ray stood on the idea that teens aren’t going to have that kind of money to spend, but I don’t see any of my friends stopping because of the price.

My Story: Teen nicotine use