Students learn about the illusion of e-cigarettes

Mar 12, 2024

Some say vaping is safer than cigarettes — but according to Robert Hackenson Jr. — that’s just an illusion. 

Hackenson, a magician and hypnotist from Dynamic Influence, joined Wareham High School eighth and ninth graders in the auditorium on Tuesday, March 5 to give them a presentation — with a number of magical demonstrations — on the dangers of vaping.

“You know you don’t have to choose between the two, right?” Hackenson said of cigarettes and vapes. 

He explained to students how a vast majority of vapes are sold through the big tobacco companies who were looking for new ways to market their products to minors.

As an example, he displayed one of the early marketing campaigns for the e-cigarette company, JUUL. The colorful graphics included younger models posing with vape pens. 

“When things are done — when things are said, especially when there’s marketing behind it — it’s done for a reason,” Hackenson said.

He explained how when e-cigarettes were first coming about in the United States, teens had no interest in them because they were marketed as a way to quit smoking — a problem teens did not have for some time. 

By altering the perception of e-cigarettes, he said the companies were able to hook younger consumers to create a new generation of smokers. 

Hackenson explained how companies will obscure the perception of vaping through various means, such as claiming their products are FDA approved, even though the chemicals found in vape pens are not approved for consumption.

Additionally, products that claim to be “tobacco free” are really using synthetic nicotine, which can be even more harmful for consumers, he added. 

The power of perception is important, Hackenson said, as the realities of vaping are far from what is currently being marketed. 

Hackenson said there is a lack of quality control with these products and even with no long-term studies, a number of health effects have been made known already, including heart and pulmonary damage.

He added the younger people are when they start vaping, the harder it is for them to quit, which is why they are the target audience for these tobacco companies. 

Hackenson shared how 80% of adolescents who start smoking become life-long smokers. Every year, 35 million smokers try to quit, but over 85% relapse within the first week. 

He encouraged students to consider their futures and where they want to see themselves. 

“You have to think about that — the life you want for yourself — and it starts now,” he said, adding how important it is to make the right choices, such as who they decided to surround themselves with.

“As you go through life, you’re going to make a lot of decisions,” he said. “Please understand, thoughts become words, words become actions, actions become habits, habits become behavior, which becomes character — it all starts here.”

“You’re building your life,” Hackenson said. “I hope you build something great.”