I vividly remember sitting in a classroom in the 5th grade being terrified. It was the year that D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) was introduced to me and my fellow students. A program whose mission is to “empower children to lead safe and healthy lives,” all it did for me was activate my wild imagination. After graduating from D.A.R.E., I was convinced that tall, hooded, drug-having men were going to follow me everywhere. They would lead me into a dark alley (of which, in this universe, there were many in my suburban neighborhood) and tempt me with a candy store selection of cigarettes, booze, and drugs; from there, I would spiral out of control.
Obviously, that never happened. The people who offered me cigarettes and alcohol at a young age weren’t strangers in hoodies; they were my peers, people who appeared in my social circle. When I was offered a cigarette, I knew what to say. They smelled bad. They yellowed your teeth and your hands. They made you cough. And, they caused fatal diseases – a point that was truly driven home when my maternal grandmother passed away from lung cancer when I was only 12. So, I said, No. Daren the D.A.R.E Lion is beaming with pride right now.
Today, most likely thanks to that adorable lion Daren, smoking among high-school aged students is at a 22-year low. That’s goods news! However, traditional cigarette marketing has been replaced by electronic cigarettes, commonly known as e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices filled with liquid nicotine that is dissolved with water and a chemical called propylene glycol. They’re cheaper, “greener” for the environment, odorless, and smoke-free. To fit in, you can buy e-cigs that look like your neighbor’s Marlboro’s.
Though long-term health effects of e-cigarettes are relatively unknown as much more research needs to be done, there are definitely the same negative drawbacks that come with traditional cigarettes. E-cigs contain nicotine (just like regular cigarettes!), which, as you probably already know, is highly addictive, can increase heart rate and blood pressure, affects lung function, and previously has been used as an insecticide (blegh!). In addition, e-cigarettes are not regulated – manufacturers are not required to post just how much nicotine each e-cig contains. Essentially, we do not even know what we’re putting in our bodies!
It may not smell, look, or feel like the cigarettes that D.A.R.E. warned us about but that doesn’t mean they are good for our health (or even a better alternative). Don’t get caught in the hype; instead, stay healthy!