To Vape, or Not to Vape? That is the Question...

As back-to-school season (and parties) kick back up, so have the return of JUULs and THC vape pens for those looking for a discreet smoking option. Simultaneously, public health concerns are continuing to rise over vaping with the vape-related death toll reaching 18 and illness has spread to over 1,000 cases, as reported by CNBC. Of the cases with substances reported, 78% of people reported using THC pens and 17% reported using nicotine products, also according to CNBC. Doctors have reported that vape-induced injury looks similar to lung injuries induced by exposure to toxic chemical gases and fumes as dangerous to those seen in "industrial accidents," as reported by CBS. The age of those most affected and at-risk for lung injuries are older adults, with the median age of those currently affected being 20, also reported by CBS. 

                                                                  Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

With a reported 10.8 million American adults admitting to using e-cigarettes according to Reuters in 2018, a larger population is at risk for lung-related injury in light of recent events. With these current concerns, I met with two women to investigate their feelings towards health concerns.

*all names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.

 

My first guest, Jane Tree*, has vaped THC products in the past and was willing to be interviewed, provided that I kept her identity anonymous. Here are the questions I sent her: 

Erin Niemi: Describe how you started vaping and which products you've used. How did you personally get into the habit? 

Jane Tree*: I started using marijuana when I was 21 to self medicate during hard times. I do not currently vape, but most recently I tried a THC vaping product by Moxie. I never bought it but would use it when friends would offer. My experience was not out of the ordinary, and I did not experience any negative side effects. The high was too strong, which is why I do not use that product.

E: Overall, how do you think vaping has affected your health?

T:  I think smoking in general impacts your body more than people realize. When I am using more frequently, my ability to breathe during exercise or heavier cardio is compromised. 

E: With all that is happening in the news, do you believe your vaping habits are going to change? 

T: I will not vape again after hearing what's going on in the news. It is so not worth the risk. I would rather feel more anxious and manage my emotions in a healthy way [like] exercise, yoga, or playing music than compromise my health by vaping.

E: Is there anything you would like vapers/non-vapers to know about your experiences? 

T: In general, I think marijuana/THC use in moderation will not harm you, it reminds me of my mom having one glass of wine a few times a week. However, if substance becomes a habit that impacts your everyday life, I believe it is important to self reflect as to why you are turning to any type of substance (vaping, drinking, other drugs, etc) and replace the behavior with something more productive.

 

My second guest, Christina Green*, is not a heavy vape user herself but her parent's vape regularly. She was willing to speak about their experience, provided I keep her name anonymous as well. We sat down at a local Starbucks and she opened up about the more positive side of vaping despite the recent negative press. 

Erin Niemi: So you told me that it was your parents that currently vape?

Christina Green: Yes! 

E: Do you know if its a nicotine or a THC vape product?

G: Definitely nicotine.

E: Can you describe how they started vaping?

G: My parents started smoking when they were probably twelve years old, back home it was pretty common at that time since they grew up in the ’80s. Smoking was really popular at the time and they probably smoked for close to thirty years. They were pretty heavy smokers, but they never smoked in the home which was nice. I don’t know exactly how they got into [vaping], but I think they just did their research and tried one of the disposable ones before getting into the refillable kind. I know they’ll have like three different kinds at a time usually, like one of each flavor depending on the time of day. For them, it was really a way for them to quit smoking. I sometimes still have a problem with it because I feel like they are dependent on it. But, they’re not smoking cigarettes and putting hundred of toxins and chemicals in their bodies. 

E: Would you say that vaping has helped or hurt their smoking habit in the long run?

G: Honestly, I think as far as smoking, in general, I don’t think it has helped but when it comes to smoking cigarettes specifically it has helped. I think they are really dependent on it because they don’t have to go outside for it, and can smoke in the home with vapes. It’s more accessible to them, so they don’t have to change their plans to use it. In that respect, they are smoking more but I’m not sure how it will affect them in the long run. 

E: With all of the talk in the news and with your parent's situation, have you considered vaping or do you try and stay away from that habit? 

G: I’m a singer, so I especially try to stay away from it. I have tried it a little bit, but I don’t think it’s something I am going to take up. I think the misconception in the news is that [the vapes in the news] are coming from black market THC pens and my parents have been upset about it since it’s kind of putting a bad name onto vaping because for them its been so helpful. 

E: Is there anything you want vapers/non-vapers to know about vaping from your experience? 

G: Again, we don’t really know the effects of these substances, but being cautious if you are going to vape and buying products where you know where they are coming from and you know that it is a quality product. My parents buy their vapes online or in-store, and the cost is a lot less than when they were buying cigarettes. Together, they would probably smoke one pack a day between the two of them. Now they are able to buy juices and refill them and use products that are more environmentally sound, and have mentioned they spend a lot less money than they have in the past.  

                                                                 Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

As the story continues to develop, the CDC has recommended people to stop vaping until they are able to determine what is causing the spike in respiratory illness, reported by The New York Times