Vaping is the inhalation of water vapor laced with nicotine and other chemicals through e-cigarettes. Other names for vaping devices are Juuls (a brand like Kleenex) or simply vapes. The practice has become remarkably popular amongst teens over the last decade with use rising 900 percent. Shockingly, many of the young people vaping would have never used tobacco products, and their exposure to nicotine occurs only through vaping.
The internet makes it virtually impossible to regulate who can buy vapes. Since they are made accessible to conceal, often disguised as pens or thumb drives, teachers and parents are having tough luck stopping their children from partaking in this increasingly popular trend. An entire vaping culture has developed on social media platforms.
Hashtags like #vapenation may add to peer pressure felt by teens to vape. Vaping is now correlated to sexual activity amongst high schoolers. That is right; kids vaping in high school are more likely to be getting laid. Vape pens have become the aphrodisiacs of the digital age. This is less absurd when vape pens’ nicotine content is considered.
Dangers Associated With Vaping
There are many common misconceptions about vaping, the first being that it is harmless. Though it is almost certainly safer than cigarette smoking, the nicotine in vape is still harmful. As a matter of fact, depending on the type of “vape juice” procured, vaping may have a higher nicotine content than cigarette smoking. Purchasing extra-strength juice or turning up the voltage of a device will produce a stronger hit of nicotine.
Nicotine is incredibly addictive, perhaps to the same extent as cocaine or heroin. A dopamine surge is produced in the brain by nicotine, and as the body adapts to nicotine consumption more nicotine is required to provide the same rush. Therefore teens find themselves needing more and more vape to satiate their addiction. The first danger of nicotine addiction is the uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal if consumption is seized.
In the short term, vaping may cause dehydration, bloody noses, and smokers’ coughs. Nicotine also spikes adrenaline and blood pressure which over time can increase the risk of heart attack. Since nicotine has been heavily researched because of its presence in cigarettes, a great deal is known about its potential harm. Less is known about the other chemical compounds contained in vape juice, but they may very well be harmful also. A recent study of urine samples showed a substantial increase in carcinogenic compounds in teens who vape.
Other compounds typically found in vape juice include:
- propylene glycol
- diacetyl (butter flavoring)
- menthol (mint flavoring)
- acetylpyridine (burnt flavoring)
- isoamyl acetate (banana flavoring)
The first two chemicals on this list are toxins which have been linked to cancer, respiratory disease, and heart disease. The following four flavorings have been shown to stress endothelial cells in the lab. These cells line blood vessels and lymph nodes. When exposed to certain flavoring compounds there was a marked reduction in nitric oxide production in these cells. This demonstrates that these flavoring chemicals can decrease cell function and affect blood vessels, putting individuals at higher risk of heart disease.
The Gateway Effect
Teens may be more likely to smoke cigarettes if they begin to vape. They also may be more likely to engage in other risky behaviors, like marijuana smoking and sex. It should be noted that these are all correlations and not causations. To imply that vaping may lead to marijuana smoking, or cocaine use is to imply causation. An argument for causation when the evidence only indicates correlation is always suspect and often political.