E-cigarettes, vapes, vape pens, juuls...
These are all different names for the same type of drug. Sure, they seem harmless at a first glance. They come in fun colors and designs with interchangeable parts so that you can customize your piece. They have flavors that range from sweet mint and crème brûlée to peach rings and birthday cake. On the surface, these devices don't appear to have any negative side effects. It's just flavored vaper juice after all, right?
Over the course of the last decade there has been an insurgence of students using e-cigarettes across the nation. As of 2018, 1 in 4 Florida high school students (1 in 13 middle school students), are currently and actively using some form of e-cigarette. But what are they exactly? Put simply, e-cigarettes are electronic devices that heat up a liquid (juice, vape juice, e-liquid) and produce an aerosol when inhaled. As mentioned above, they come in many shapes and sizes, ranging from USB drives and pens to larger devices that have tanks attached to them. In addition, these devices can also be used for storing other drugs, such as marijuana.
image via CDC.gov
According to a recent study conducting by the CDC, 99% of the e-cigarettes that are sold in assessed venues contain nicotine. Why is that bad? That is another simple answer. Nicotine is the addictive drug that is found in all regular cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products. What's worse is that despite the labels that may say "contains no nicotine" or "0% nicotine" researchers have found that there is in fact nicotine in those products. Even trace amounts of nicotine can have lasting effects on a developing brain, and a brain doesn't stop its developing until it is 25 years old. This makes it more vulnerable to latching onto addiction as well as other negative side effects, such as a deficit in attention and cognition, impulse control, and mood swings.
Because students use e-cigarettes, the possibility that they will move on to smoke real cigarettes or partake in other drugs later in life increases exponentially. As it stands, despite all of the other dangers out there, smoking cigarettes is still the single most largest preventable cause of death and disease in the United States.
However, nicotine isn't the only thing about e-cigarettes that poses a threat. Scientists are still researching the long term effects of vaping. One of the common issues found is that while some of the flavors that vape juice comes in could be ingested, they should not be inhaled. This is partly due to the fact that the gut can process that flavor better than the lungs, as that is what it was designed to do. The lungs are meant for breathing, not taking in aerosol. Additionally, the batteries in the devices have been known to explode and cause serious injuries to the user.
image via CDC.gov
Let's make one thing clear: e-cigarette aerosol is NOT just harmless "water vapor." With each inhale of an e-cigarette, the user is putting all kinds of harmful substances into their lungs and body. Nicotine, for one, is one of the more widely known chemicals found in juice, but there are also other cancer-causing chemicals that can be found in vape juices. Like regular cigarettes, second-hand smoke can be just as dangerous to the people around you when using an e-cigarette. That vaper gets into their lungs just like it does the user's and can cause the same kind of damage, if not worse. It's a bad look to want to harm someone around you for a quick fix, isn't it?
So before picking up any kind of e-cigarette, think of the consequences. Is "trying it out" worth the side effects you might experience, or the harm you can do to your body? Even just a taste can later lead to lasting effects, and that isn't something that anyone wants to go through. Know the facts. Educate yourself and others on the dangers of using e-cigarettes. Enough is enough.