Humans have been smoking tobacco for a long time. But the popularity of tobacco cigarettes took off in the U.S. during WWI, when they were given out freely. By the middle of the 20th Century, close to 60% of men were smoking cigarettes. When the evidence overwhelmingly showed that cigarettes caused not only cancer but heart disease and respiratory disease, major public health campaigns focused on curbing smoking. This led to significant drops in smoking among adults and youth in the U.S.
Today, public health experts are again focusing their efforts to curb smoking, but this time it’s on electronic cigarettes, which were first sold in the U.S. in 2007. Many e-cigarettes have high levels of nicotine and aerosols that are inhaled into the lungs. Recent studies show a dramatic increase in their usage – data from 2017 found 1 million American youth aged 14 to 17 years old became new daily tobacco users within the past two years.
In this program, Drs. John Peace and Laura Crotty Alexander talk about the public health impacts of smoking. They discuss how e-cigarettes work and why they appeal to young people and are highly addicting. They also discuss some of the early research findings about the negative health effects of e-cigarettes, and like regular tobacco cigarettes, they argue that there needs to be more regulation.