Vaping: a high school epidemic
Vaping has blown up and become a habit for millions of people around the world since its first introduction to the market in China fifteen years ago. It is now the most popular form of smoking among teenagers in the United States and use rose by 900% among high school-aged students from 2011-2015 according to Medical News Today. Juul has become a billion-dollar company in only one year. While it’s true that taking up a vaping habit isn’t the best thing someone could do for the health, this exponential growth in the market has left us with a much safer alternative to traditional cigarettes or other drugs.
E-cigarettes have been proven time and time again to be a much safer and healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes, one reason being the dramatically reduced number of chemicals and toxins. According to Johns Hopkins’ medical center, tobacco cigarettes contain 7,000 chemicals and while the exact number is unknown, vapes contain considerably less toxic chemicals. Additionally, e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco or any other toxins and carcinogens that are causes of lung diseases and cancer in cigarette smokers.
Most kids in America now grow up hearing year after year in drug-ed classes about e-cigarettes as a “gateway” into conventional smoking. The appeal to vaping, however, for many teenagers cannot be achieved with traditional cigarettes. One EHS student recalls they started vaping because “it looked fun and cool to do with all of the flavors, tricks, and different styles.” Cigarettes come with only one flavor, not comparing to the many offered by different vape companies.
While teenagers get increasingly involved in the vaping world, many worry about the effects of nicotine. Nicotine is the most common addiction in America, so those worries aren’t unprecedented. However, vapes come in a range of nicotine concentrations, some even offering zero nicotine, once again proving them to be a better alternative.
The new vaping fad is most often associated with teens, and many fail to remember the benefits they can provide for people who are struggling to quit smoking, as nicotine is one of the hardest addictions to break according to the Center for Addiction. E-cigarettes can fade or even reverse the negative effects of smoking in most cases. Switching from smoking cigarettes to vaping has been proven to allow users to regain their sense of smell and taste, as well as bring blood pressure back to normal levels and reduce respiratory issues. The effects of second-hand smoke and bad smells are greatly reduced, as they emit virtually no toxic material in their aerosol. One EHS student remembers how their family members have been affected by nicotine addictions and says “some of them switched to vapes and found it to be beneficial.”
Vaping is an epidemic that has swept teenagers and young adults in the past years. While cigarette usage is down, nicotine addiction and usage is skyrocketing. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, Teen e-cigarette use has raised by 900% from 2011 to 2015. While vape liquids and pods have fewer chemicals in them than cigarettes, making them “healthier,” they still contain the high amounts of nicotine we have all heard the consequences of. The company Juul is responsible for a big part of this problem.
Last August, Juul accounted for 72% of e-cigarette sales. One big issue with this is that Juul targets their product at young adults, by using sleek packaging and fruity flavors. Another issue with this? Juul doesn’t sell nicotine-free pods. According to Yale Medicine, Juul pods contain roughly 40 mg of nicotine in them, the same amount of a pack of cigarettes. This is especially harmful to people who are unaware of this, thinking a pod a day isn’t bad, when in reality it the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.
What’s so wrong with nicotine? Nicotine is a stimulant drug. This means it can raise the levels of chemicals in your brain and increase your heart rate and blood pressure, this increases your chance of a heart attack. The problem with nicotine is that the sensation that nicotine causes is highly addictive to people of all ages, and nicotine acts fast on your brain, causing a release of chemicals in your brain in 7 seconds. The major problem with nicotine use by teens is that nicotine can interfere with memory and attention spans, making it difficult for teens to learn. Krishnan-Sarin, a health researcher in Connecticut found that there was a direct link to vaping and then going on to use traditional cigarettes.
While vaping can contain fewer chemicals than traditional cigarettes, many people don’t realize that the chemicals in vapes are still extremely harmful, there are just less of them. The problem with the vaping epidemic facing our generation is that many don’t realize how addictive nicotine is until they are addicted. While cigarette use might be down, nicotine use is up, and it’s hurting our generation’s future.
Whatever your view, it’s important to remember that if you don’t already, it’s best to not start vaping. Addictions are not fun to live with, and are not easily avoided when picking up such a habit. It’s best to stay safe and healthy.