That time of year again when kids get to dress up and go neighborhood-trotting seeking their favorite sweet treats. And being an annual holiday, Halloween keeps evolving. What was in last year could be out of date this year. It’s merely the stage of progression.
But with modern trends come some not-so-acceptable changes. One trend, in particular, has caught the eye of health experts – candy-flavored tobacco products. That’s right; it’s now possible to get delectable treats like cotton candy or gummy bears infused with nicotine. It’s hard to tell just by looking at these candies, and the worst part is kids don’t know the difference either.
A Look at the Nicotine Menace
The fad of vaping began way back in 2003 with the invention of the e-cigarette by Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik. From then on, tobacco companies have been in a rush to develop nicotine aerosol-generating devices. The trend has, in recent years, caught on with the advent of flavored e-cigarettes proving popular among the youth. Data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey carried out in 2018 showed that there was a 78% increase in the use of e-cigarettes.
Tobacco companies had a eureka moment after realizing that flavoring their products could help them reach a broader market – a younger market. After all, a large number of adult smokers picked up the habit as kids or teens. About nine in every ten began smoking by the age of 18. After doing some digging, these companies realized that kids could get addicted more easily than adults. That means they’ll be hooked for life if they start early enough.
Issues Surrounding Vaping
With so much vaping going on, it was only a matter of time before an epidemic of significant proportions broke out. Cue vaping illness. This condition has already been reported in 805 individuals with a further 13 confirmed dead. Alarming numbers for a seven-month period.
Patients often exhibit symptoms such as chest pain or shortness of breath, coughing, vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea. Doctors and researchers alike pay tribute to the toxic chemical fumes that vaping produces. After conducting MRIs on lung tissues taken from vaping patients, it was found that chemical burns were the cause of the illness. Dr. Brandon Larsen, a surgical pathologist at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, gave his input. He said that the injuries caused by vaping were similar to toxic chemical exposure injuries witnessed in chemical factories.
What Action Is Being Taken?
The government and other groups haven’t remained silent amid the ongoing crisis. Ads of e-cigarettes portraying attractive young models, beautiful bright colors, and fruity flavors have come under fire from parents, lawmakers, and health officials alike. The government is working at the state, local, and national levels to try and curb the growing mess.
Lawmakers, in particular, have taken the fight right to the e-cigarette industry door. A house panel has sent letters to a few e-cigarette companies asking for a stop to TV, radio, print as well as digital advertising. Market leader Juul is under the CDC’s microscope for answers on what’s making users sick. Congress is playing its part by grilling CDC and FDA officials to get some answers on the vaping crisis.
The Fate On Trick or Treat-ers
Eating candy isn’t exactly the best course of dietary action. Candy is jam-packed with sugar and is known to cause weight gain, increase risk of heart disease, increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes as well as guaranteed trips to the dentist’s office. Halloween has, however, become the official cheat day when it comes to kids gorging on candy. The reigns are let loose, and kids go door to door in hope and expectation of landing some excellent treats.
But with the rise in tobacco laced confectionaries, there’s no time like the present to reign in on what kids are consuming come October 31st. It’s scary just how many varieties of nicotine-containing candies are out there. From butterscotch, white chocolate to good old fashioned bubblegum, the list goes on.
Why It’s Such a Challenge to Mitigate the Issue
It’s not like all the candies come branded as containing nicotine. In September 2018, seven young kids in the state of Florida were rushed to the emergency room after swallowing nicotine lozenges. They all thought it was candy and figured why not. The kid who bought the lozenges got them from a store that saw it fit to sell a nicotine-laced product to a kid.
The manufacturers and retailers of liquid nicotine that’s used in e-cigarettes at times market their products to kids. They use popular name brands of cereals and candy to reach out to children. A report published by an advocacy organization known as First Focus laid bare 500 cases of liquid nicotine being sold as trustable brands by retailers. This report sheds light on the rampant use of confectionaries to market tobacco to kids, and a lack of a regulatory response could have lethal consequences.
The Long Term Effects
Nicotine intake, whether through vaping or ingestion, spells doom for the user. Nicotine plays an active role in interfering with brain development. Once in the system, it binds with what are known as acetylcholine receptors in the brain, and this lowers memory and attention capabilities. So teens or kids who indulge in the frequent use of nicotine products run the risk of affecting their grades and, consequently, their futures.
There’s also the added risk of cancer that nicotine usage poses. Nicotine use leads to addiction to tobacco-based products that contain substances known as carcinogens that cause cancer. Nicotine itself has toxic effects on cell growth, which could lead to malignancies as well as interfere with the formation of blood vessels in the body. The bottom line is nicotine use is a bad idea.
The issue of nicotine use among minors is an escalating one, and it’s something that will take the joint effort of stakeholders, governments, and individuals alike to quell. Halloween should be a time for kids to worry about filling their candy baskets. It’s not a time for them to worry about which of their candies are packed full of nicotine.