Vaping Epidemic

Middle School and High School Students Show Extreme Increase in E-Cigarette Use

10/07/2019  |  By Melissa O'Brien
Health and Wellness
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In the early 1800s, cigarettes became popular in the United States. It was not until the 1950s and 1960s that medical reports confirmed the dangers of smoking cigarettes. It took almost 200 years to detect the extreme health risks of tobacco smoking.

Today, we have e-cigarettes; created initially as a healthy alternative to help smokers kick their habit. Which makes many assume that e-cigarettes and vapes are risk and addiction-free, but this is not true. Vaping causes a multitude of health risks, especially when inhaled by adolescents. Companies, like JUUL, are marketing products for teens, by promoting flavors like mango, fruit medley, creme brûlée and more. The marketing of fun flavors has become an essential marketing tool for these companies, and it has drawn in large numbers of young smokers causing an entirely new generation of nicotine addicts.

Electronic cigarettes have become a grave concern across America due to the vast number of adolescents abusing them. Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Scott Gottlieb, former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, express how crucial it is to make sure that e-cigarettes do not become an on-ramp for children to become addicted to nicotine.

In recent years, the National Youth Tobacco Survey stated that the number of high-school-aged people using e-cigarettes rose by over 75 percent and an increase of 50 percent among middle-schoolers. Nicotine is highly addictive and can cause harm to the brain’s development, which continues to develop into young adulthood. Statistics have shown that young e-cigarette users are more likely to begin smoking conventional cigarettes than their peers who do not use e-cigarettes.

There are many people in the FDA pushing to reduce nicotine levels in combustible cigarettes to render them minimally addictive or completely nonaddictive, as an effort to reduce the likelihood of adolescents becoming addicted, and as a way to create other options for adults to receive nicotine to give them a safer substitute for cigarettes.

The e-cigarette liquid contains toxic chemicals, such as formaldehyde and diacetyl. Formaldehyde is often used in building materials and antifreeze, also a well-known cause of cancer. Diacetyl, a flavoring chemical, was banned from being used in popcorn factories due to the high number of factory workers developing lung disease.

Formaldehyde is linked to ALS and causes other nervous system consequences. This toxic chemical is released when the liquid inside an e-cigarette is heated. Formaldehyde is released at all vaping voltages but vaping at a higher voltage causes an increased amount of the chemical to be released.

The chemical diacetyl links to a disease called Bronchiolitis Obliterans. Also known as “popcorn lung,” due to the high amount of popcorn factory workers who suffered from exposure. Popcorn lung is a condition that causes damage to the small airways of the lungs, causing coughing and shortness of breath.  

Nicotine levels in e-cigarettes are very high, and it is hard to monitor the amount one is inhaling. When smoking conventional cigarettes, one can track the number of cigarettes smoked per day, but with e-cigarettes people, especially teens, go through pods quickly without knowing how much nicotine content they have inhaled. A single JUUL pod has the equivalent amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. JUUL users on an online forum reported a JUUL pod lasting less than three days, and some said if it lasts 24 hours that it is a “miracle.”

Vaping is not a healthy alternative to smoking actual cigarettes. It is highly addictive, filled with chemicals and causes diseases. We especially need to keep vapes out of the hands of teens due to the higher risk of health problems seen in youth and young adults.

Melissa O’Brien is a Stony Brook University graduate with a background in marketing, business management, and IoT. She previously served as a Committee Member of the State University of New York Student Assembly, working with the SUNY Board of Education on behalf of the students, she has helped change the lives of students with Soter Technologies. Melissa has worked with Soter Technologies in their marketing department to help create safer and healthier environments for students across the globe.
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