Vapor product confusion

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects

Like many teenagers, Marcus, Lilli and Pierce are comfortable with the latest in technology.   but they find the ever changing technology and terminology associated with vapor products confusing. 

"Very lost with all that stuff," admitted Lilli. 

"There are so many things out there but are they really different?" questioned Marcus. 

The high school students say the vape products are catching on with their peers.  

"I think like the e-hookahs and the e-vape pens are the most popular," said Marcus.  

They add that e-cigarettes are less popular among kids they know. But, is there any difference?   

"There are all kinds of different vapor products out there that people would classify as e-cigarettes, but they're really vapor products," explained Cynthia Cabrera with the Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association, which represents many in the vapor industry.  

"An e-cigarette is, goes by many different names. It can be an e-pen, it can be a vape pen, but they all exist to do the same thing, which is to deliver vaporized nicotine to the user," said Thomas J. Glynn, M.A., M.S., Ph.D. with the American Cancer Society.  

Glynn says the different names are a concern to public health experts. 

"They're sort of a camouflage. A lot of kids who would never want to be associated with a cigarette are perfectly happy to be associated with a vape pen.  Youth as well as adults may be some what confused by it," he added.

And experts say, that confusion could mean more teens than previously thought are using nicotine vapor products.  A CDC survey found 10% of high school students said they had tried e-cigarettes in 2012 which is double from the year before.   

But the CDC says now, " is possible that the use of hookah pens, e-hookahs, vaporizers could lead us to underestimate the overall use of nicotine delivery devices." 

"If we just say, 'Do you use an e-cigarette?' Many youth will say, 'No I don't use an e-cigarette.' What we won't have is the good information we need about who is using, how long have they been using and so on if we don't use the correct terminology," said Glynn. 

Cabrera says adult consumers like the assortment of options, and manufacturers are not looking to turn kids into customers. 

"People are able to customize these products with the flavors, the type of hardware that they want and they're creating a really great experience that's unique for them and that's driving the market," Cabrera said. "The demographic for this product is current adult smokers."

Meantime, Marcus, Lilli and Pierce say no matter what the vapor product is called, they're staying away. But more kids they know are giving them a try.

"It's more common for people to be doing that," said Pierce.

"I guess they're experimenting, trying to see what's new," Marcus added. 

The American Cancer Society is urging members of the field to adjust their terminology when discussing usage of these products with teens.  And Glynn says more data is needed regarding the possible health affects of these vapor products. 

One recently released study suggests electronic cigarettes may cause or worsen respiratory diseases among youth.    

More information on the FDA's planned regulation of e-cigarettes:

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