It’s no surprise in the technological age of rapid software development and digital platforms, that an electronic alternative to smoking cigarettes reached the consumer market.

As vapes (also known as “e-Cigs”, “e-hookahs”, “vapes”, “vape pens” or “tank systems”) are not regulated by the FDA, many concerns have been raised about the marketing strategies and effects on young adults, as well as dangers of the devices exploding.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a press release
in May regarding its continued monitoring of e-cigarette company practices to better understand the marketing appeal to young children and teens. This effort is part of the FDA’s Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan to help protect and warn youth about the dangers of nicotine and tobacco products.

‘Vaping’ is the term used to describe the newest trend in nicotine replacement for quitting smoking. The vaping

Studies show that vaping at a young age can lead to smoking cigarettes later in life.

devices come in various sizes and shapes but all perform the same inhalation process similar to smoking.

There are many downfalls and concerns to the unregulated yet ever-popular devices. An increased interest in use by young children, exploding batteries and popcorn lung are some of the notable concerns.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists the problem with liquids is they contain not only nicotine, but ultrafine particles, diacetyl (a chemical linked to lung disease), volatile organic compounds, cancer-causing chemicals and heavy metals (nickel, tin and lead).

Flavored liquid is placed in various types of chambers which are then heated from a battery element. The aerosol from the heat is what the user inhales to achieve an effect similar to smoking.

The liquid is typically made from a base of propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerin (VG). Nicotine is then added in various milligrams for the user to choose from. Flavors are often fruity, sweet or creamy, and the option of tobacco flavoring is available as well.

The various flavors of “e-juice” have product designs, packaging, and labeling that can look appealing to young consumers. This is a concern for federal agencies. The FDA statement explained its concern being that, “These e-liquid products resemble juice boxes, candy or cookies, and some of them included cartoon-like imagery.”

Regarding the dangers of marketing e-cigs to young kids, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. said, “These products should never be marketed to, sold to, or used by kids and it’s critical that we take aggressive steps to address the youth use of these products. This includes taking a hard look at whether certain design features and product marketing practices are fueling the youth use of such products.”

These efforts aren’t just about the dangers of e-cigarettes and nicotine addiction, but recent studies have indicated teens are twice as likely to end up smoking traditional cigarettes.

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published findings from a survey last month about the advertising effects on young men and women when it comes susceptibility to e-cigarette and tobacco use. Out of 10,898 participants ages 12 to 21 years old, the conclusion indicated:

“Receptivity to tobacco advertising was significantly associated with progression toward use in adolescents. Receptivity was highest for e-cigarette advertising and was associated with trying a cigarette.”

As if the health complications from vaping aren’t enough, batteries in e-cigarettes have been known to explode which puts users at risk of bodily injury from the devices.

On May 5, Tallmadge D’Elia was found dead at his home in St. Petersburg, Fla. An autopsy revealed his cause of death was a “projectile wound to the head” from a vape pen that exploded into pieces. He suffered burns on 80 percent of his body.

The U.S. Fire Administration, part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), compiled data about the risk of exploding devices. From 2009 through 2016, there were at least 195 incidents of electronic cigarettes that exploded or caught fire.

D’Elia’s death is the first known fatality from electronic cigarette malfunction but there have been many lawsuits filed by consumers who were injured by the exploding devices.

The main idea behind electronic cigarettes is to give traditional tobacco smokers an alternative to regular cigarettes. In and of itself, smoking causes one in five deaths every year in the United States. But with unregulated products and an appeal to younger generations who are susceptible to deceitful advertising, e-cigs may never be considered healthy alternatives to smoking.