Vaping has increased in popularity for today’s youth and is a new danger to the incidence of addiction, cancer, and respiratory problems. Vape pens, e-cigarettes, e-hookahs, and other electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) all contribute to the act of “vaping.”
While marketed as a healthier option to smoking cigarettes, vaping is still quite dangerous and should not be considered by non-smokers. The only potential benefit of vaping is to individuals who already smoke and are trying to quit (and even that is debatable). Unfortunately, vaping is becoming more and more popular especially in youngsters.
How Does Vaping Work?
Vaping involves the use of an electronic device to heat up cartridges of aerosol creating a vapor that can be inhaled. Enhanced flavor, nicotine and marijuana isolates are common components of cartridges. These devices come in many forms and can be easily disguised to look like pens or flash drives. This makes them especially attractive to younger individuals who are attempting to hide the act of vaping from parents and teachers.
What is inside a cartridge?
Vaping isn’t exclusive to nicotine products, it can also include “nicotine-free” cartridges and marijuana oil. The cartridges contain aerosol solution, flavoring chemicals, nicotine, and other carcinogenic compounds.
The act of “vaping” and vaping culture is rather new and there are little regulations over the contents of these cartridges. Many inconsistencies have been found between their alleged contents and what is actually in them. For example, many “nicotine-free” cartridges have nicotine and contribute to the development of addiction.
Is It Really Safer?
While safer than traditional cigarettes, vaping is still a nicotine delivery system. Nicotine increases heart rates and is addictive. Cancers are not a direct result of nicotine. Rather, it is the harmful constituents present in combustible smoke at fault. The more that can be done to eliminate cigarettes, the greater the impact will be on public health. An additional point to consider is that while research has found that vaping is a safer option to smoking conventional cigarettes- this is usually based on the fact that cigarettes have more KNOWN harmful chemicals.
The long-term harm of vaping will not be fully recognized until it happens- when today’s adolescent users reach older ages. Vape chemicals are extremely small and reach deeper inside the lungs. This can be problematic for an individual with respiratory problems such as asthma and COPD. Furthermore, potential damage from these extra-fine chemicals will be hard to reach and treat as a result. Ultimately no vaping or smoking at all is the safest and healthiest route.
Effects on a Developing Brain
Younger demographics can be seen as the main target of vaping marketing because of the use of tasty flavors or fun names that might appeal to a younger demographic (e.g. Killer Kustard, Strawberry, watermelon, pie/custard flavors, Hannibal nectar, unicorn milk etc.) and with designs that disguise the devices- making them concealable in plain sight and ideal for kids to use stealthily. This is problematic for countless reasons. The brain doesn’t stop developing until our mid-twenties, especially the frontal lobes. Smoking nicotine before the brain fully develops leads to nicotine addiction, altered moods, and permanent changes in the way synapses develop in the brain.
Impaired concentration, poor long-term planning, and irrational decision making result from underdeveloped frontal lobes. The younger the individual vaping and the longer this lasts, the worse the effects on the brain.
The act of vaping also contributes to second-hand health problems. Chemicals and nicotine dissolved in the air can affect young children and pregnant women close by. Nicotine can be especially toxic to a developing fetus and pregnant women should also watch out for vapor from these devices. Since it is largely unknown what toxic chemicals can be found in the vapor, they may increase the overall risk of developing cancer and cardiovascular problems.
- “Electronic Cigarettes.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/index.htm.
- Tobacco Prevention Toolkit. “E-Cigs/Vapes & Pod-Based.” EHR National Symposium, med.stanford.edu/tobaccopreventiontoolkit/E-Cigs.html.
3. “Understanding the Teen Brain .” Ice Packs vs. Warm Compresses For Pain – Health Encyclopedia – University of Rochester Medical Center, www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=1&ContentID=305