Vaping. Almost everyone has heard of it, and way too many people are doing it. Whether you vape as a means to kick your smoking habit, or do it instead of traditional smoking; whether it’s as a coping mechanism, or because somewhere along the line it was the “cool” thing to do–regardless of the reason, it’s time to get real about the harm vaping causes.
E-cigarettes (most commonly used for vaping), are known by a variety of other names, such as “e-cigs,” “mods,” “vapes,” “e-hookahs,” “tank systems,” and “electronic nicotine delivery systems (or ENDS).” The act of vaping can also go by other names like “e-juice,” “e-liquid,” “vape juice,” “vape liquid” or “JUUlling”.
All of these options are basically the same thing: smoking or getting high (in the case of the e-cig containing marijuana or other drugs) by producing an aerosol through heating a liquid that usually contains nicotine and other chemicals. Many of these products come in a variety of flavors that appeal to teens and young adults (and even children). And unlike traditional cigarettes, the vapor produced is odorless and makes it easier to use at home or school without being caught.
Some e-cigarette labels do not disclose that they contain nicotine (even though they do), and some e-cigarettes are even marketed as containing 0% nicotine but have actually been found to contain it. One recent CDC study found that 99% of the e-cigarettes sold in the United States contain nicotine, whether they state it or not.
Looking closer at each reason you might choose to vape, here are some facts to consider:
Instead of Smoking: A lot of people think that vaping can be substituted for smoking or can help them resist the temptation to start. However, there is strong evidence that for those who haven’t yet begun traditional smoking, the use of e-cigarettes is more likely to lead to the use of smoking cigarettes in the future. So not only can it lead to smoking, but there’s evidence it increases the possibility of future, more serious, drug use. Vaping does not stop the desire to smoke tobacco, nor does it guarantee you won’t pick it up at some point. So if you are currently vaping, or are considering picking up the habit to replace tobacco smoking— think again.
To Kick The Habit: For those who already smoke tobacco products, and are looking for a way to kick the habit, it can be tempting to turn to vaping. Yet, switching to vaping is not as beneficial as you might think. First, e-cigarettes actually contain very high levels of nicotine, and although tobacco cigarettes still usually contain more nicotine, because of the way a traditional cigarette works, much of the nicotine will burn off once it is lit. Unless you plan on smoking the entire cigarette in one sitting, you will not be consuming the total nicotine amount, meaning vaping actually contains a higher amount consumed in a shorter amount of time.
Additionally, e-cigarette users can get even more nicotine than they would from traditional tobacco cigarettes because of the options available to buy extra-strength cartridges (which have higher levels of nicotine). You can also choose to increase the e-cigarette’s voltage to get a greater amount of nicotine, or if you go with the brand of “JUUL,” you will be getting a much higher amount.
Fun fact- Did you know that approximately two-thirds of JUUL users ages 15-24 did not know that JUUL always contains nicotine, and according to the manufacturer, a single JUUL pod actually contains as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes? JUUL is currently the top-selling brand of e-cigarettes, and one of the most detrimental.
If all of this is TLDR, just know this: there is very little evidence to support that switching to vaping helps you stop smoking. So if that is your intent for starting, just stop while you’re ahead.
As a Comfort or Coping Mechanism: It is not uncommon for someone to be interested in vaping simply as a means to ease their anxiety, calm their stress, or simply as a comfort or coping mechanism. While it should be noted that vaping can offer some relaxational properties, the side effects are overwhelmingly not worth it. The good news is there are healthy and effective ways to deal with stress and anxiety that won’t have negative effects on your health, brain, and body. Try deep breathing, mindfulness practices, physical exercise, reach out to loved ones, and if it’s serious enough, go see a mental health professional.
The Cool Factor Now, maybe someone wouldn’t admit out loud that the reason you started vaping was simply as a way to fit in or to give your image a boost, but the fact is that this is one of the most common reasons cited by young people for starting to vape. One study showed that 39% of teens said they started vaping to improve their social image.The vaping lifestyle has been glamorized by social media, ads, movies, even celebrities, and probably by your own social circles. In a world where fitting in and looking cool is so important, it is understandable that you might be tempted to pick up that JUUL. However, before you give in just because it’s “cool”, consider all of its negative effects, and remember that what is really cool is being yourself and expressing your own identity.
Teens, Young Adults, and Vaping: What’s the big deal?
So, why should you care about nicotine or the amount you are consuming? For one thing, while everyone knows of the dangers of cigarettes (even if they still choose to partake), the health risks of vaping are less understood.
Nicotine use increases the risk of addiction, its as simple as that. According to the CDC, “Nicotine is highly addictive and can harm adolescent brain development, which continues into the early to mid-20s.” It is extremely difficult to stop using once you start–especially for young people–and will often lead to the use of traditional cigarettes, alcohol and other drugs.
For those reading this, you may be within the exact age range where nicotine and vaping can have the most detrimental effects. Or perhaps you are a concerned parent of an at-risk child. Either way, it is crucial that you understand just how bad vaping is for you. Young people are particularly vulnerable to both vaping and the effects that it has. Young adult brains are not finished growing and changing until age 25 or later, thus, the developing brain is more vulnerable to the effects of addictive substances than that of a fully developed adult brain.
Nicotine harms these developing adolescent brains– specifically the parts that control attention, learning, mood, and impulse control. It also changes the very way in which synapses in the brain are formed. Additionally, nicotine can interfere with long-term cognitive functioning, and increase the risk of mental and physical health problems later in life.
There is a growing body of research that shows that on top of the negative effects of nicotine, there are plenty of other negative health consequences. Other known risk factors include:
- Cancerous tumor development
- Damage to the brain, heart, and lungs
- Pregnancy-related problems (for those who vape while pregnant or trying to conceive)
- Harmful effects on brain and lung development during your adolescent years
- Long-term negative effects on your lungs (regardless of age)
It is also erroneous to believe that vaping is better than smoking because it doesn’t harm others. In fact, e-cigarettes pose lots of threats to those around them. Defective batteries have been known to cause some fires and explosions, which have resulted in series injuries. Both children and adults have been poisoned by breathing, swallowing, or absorbing e-cigarette liquid through their skin or eyes. Additionally, e-cigarette aerosol is not just harmless “water vapor”, and can emit harmful substances to both the user and bystanders.
Not only do e-cigarettes contain nicotine, but they also contain several other harmful substances that are not intended for the body. Many of the ill- effects of vaping are only recently becoming public, and the truth is, much of the dangers and long-term effects are still unknown. The cases of hospitalization and even death have been growing in the past few months (over 1000 illnesses and 39 deaths as of this writing). Some of these have been due to black-market THC cartridges but not all of them. It would be safer and wiser to stay away completely and try other, safer ways to cope. Remember these some of the most crucial years for your mental, emotional and physical development. Vaping can be a very short-term “fix” that has serious (and unknown) long-term consequences.
Instead of turning to vaping, consider seeking professional help in quitting any current smoking habits, and learning healthy coping mechanisms for whenever you are feeling anxious or stressed or down. Reach out to loved ones for help if you are struggling, and use the available resources here on this site.