Vaping: Is It Really That Cool?

Something we don’t talk about enough is vaping. Why do so many young people doing it? Why is it suddenly cool? Is it really that cool?

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An e-cigarette, or vape, is a little battery-powered nicotine machine. I never understood the hype behind them and honestly, vaping scares me because we don’t know the long-term effects.

 

The e-cigarette (or vape pen) you think of today was invented in 2003 by Hon Lik, a Chinese pharmacist. He was an avid smoker and wanted to kick the habit after his father died of lung cancer. The way an e-cigarette works is a lithium battery atomizes a liquid solution of nicotine - it doesn’t burn at all. 60% of men smoke in China, and so the invention gained a small following. It became very popular in the United States, however, because of the prohibition of smoking indoors in many public places. Vaping has even become somewhat of its own subculture, and as of 2014, there are an estimated 35,000 vape shops in the US—three times as many as the year before.

 

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Vaping was originally meant as an alternative for smokers, but it has turned into a hobby for younger generations. Since 2015, it has become a major part of youth culture. It’s attracting teenagers who wouldn’t typically smoke, and no one really understands why - not even Ashley Gould, the chief administrative officer of Juul Labs. “We’re actively trying to understand it so that we can combat it - but I can’t tell you that we currently understand it today,” she says.

 

Juul Labs is the largest seller of e-cigarettes in the United States. To give you a sense of how large they are, 80% of all teenagers who regularly use e-cigarettes use Juul brand vapes. They are regularly seen around college campuses and even high schools. In the US 11% of 8th graders, 22% of 10th graders, and 25% of 12th graders reported having vaped before. Teenagers are no longer getting caught in the school bathroom with a cigarette - they’re getting caught with a Juul. At the end of 2014, e-cigarette global sales amassed $7 billion.

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It’s crazy because if it were not for vaping, many students would not be becoming addicted to nicotine. According to the National Health Interview Survey in 2015, “Among adult e-cigarette users overall, 58.8% also were current cigarette smokers, 29.8% were former cigarette smokers, and 11.4% had never been cigarette smokers….In contrast, among current e-cigarette users aged 18–24 years, 40.0% had never been cigarette smokers.” Forty percent. That’s nearly half who would have never touched nicotine had it not been for vaping.

 

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Many will say that vaping is a better alternative to smoking. Even the inventor, Hon Lik said so! But is it really? There have been metal particles such as nickel, tin, and lead detected in both e-cigarette juice and the aerosol that young people are exhaling. That means that metal particles are getting into the lungs of young adults. Moreover, the aerosol contains diacetyl, a chemical flavoring linked to lung disease.

 

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Additionally, a single Juul pod (which is what one smokes) contains as much nicotine as a pack of 20 cigarettes. According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “using nicotine in adolescence can harm parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood, and impulse control.” To paint a better picture, the brain does not fully develop until the age of 25. Teens do not know that by “hitting a Juul” they are not only harming their lungs, but also their cognitive ability.

 

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Now yes, e-cigarettes ARE less harmful than cigarettes. But what people get confused is that this doesn’t make them safe. They are not approved by the FDA as a quit smoking aid, so do not get it mixed up. And to reiterate, scientists do not know the long-term effects of vaping.

 

Next time you or a friend is vaping, truly ask yourself what the benefit of it is. Is it worth getting a lung disease or cancer from something that looks like a flash drive?

 

Is it really that cool? Think about it.