Nicotine addiction is one of the most widespread forms of chemical dependency in the U.S. According to estimates, nearly 15 percent of American adults smoke cigarettes. To make matters worse, more minors are now getting addicted to nicotine via e-cigarettes.
How people get addicted
When a person inhales nicotine, the smoke reaches their brains in just under 10 seconds. Various chemical reactions get triggered in the brain that gives off a feeling of pleasure. And though this feeling is short-lived, it creates such a strong impact that the smoker now feels compelled to experience it again.
As the level of nicotine in the blood starts decreasing, the person starts feeling irritated and uneasy. The smoker understands that the only way to calm his nerves is to take another puff. So, he smokes a new cigarette. The process continues several times and before he knows it, the person will have become addicted to nicotine, feeling the need to keep smoking all through the day.
“The amount of dopamine released with any given puff of a cigarette is not that great compared to other drugs, but the fact that the activity is repeated so often, and in conjunction with so many other activities, ties nicotine’s rewards strongly to many behaviors that we perform on a daily basis, enhancing the pleasure and the motivation that we get from them,” Dr. Nora D. Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) at the National Institutes of Health, said in an article at PBS.org.
The e-cigarette epidemic among minors
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a number of policies intended to crack down on e-cigarette manufacturers after reports that minors were increasingly becoming addicted to such products. According to a 2017 survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it was found that almost 11.7 percent of high school students had used an e-cigarette within the study’s previous month compared to just 1.5 percent students in 2011.
“In some cases, our kids are trying these products and like them without even knowing they contain nicotine… And that’s a problem, because, as we know, the nicotine in these products can rewire an adolescent’s brain, leading to years of addiction,” the Missourian quotes FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb from an April news release.
Though e-cigarettes were initially intended to allow heavy smokers a way to control or transition out of their habit, the fact that students have been picking it up has been a cause of concern for the FDA. The organization has instructed e-cigarette manufacturers to submit plans to prevent kids from becoming dependent on their products. FDA is also considering removing e-cigarette flavors from the market that minors find appealing.
“FDA for years has repeatedly missed opportunities to keep tobacco products out of the hands of our children… Clearly, the FDA knows who the industry culprits are in this epidemic and as such should exercise its full regulatory authority over these products rather than allow the industry to voluntarily self-correct,” the Los Angeles Times quotes Chris Hansen, President of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.
The FDA will be monitoring the situation over the next months. And if the organization finds that e-cigarette usage among minors is increasing, it will introduce stricter policies to keep the epidemic in check.