Dangers of vaping

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In high schools, JUUL is the most popular form of vaping (Flickr/VaporVanity.com).

Lucy Singer

In 2004, the first e-cigarette came to U.S. stores. These electronic devices heat E-liquid, turning it into a vapor which the user then inhales. This liquid is generally made of propylene glycol, glycerin, water, flavorings, and nicotine. Promoted as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes (“vape” or “vaporizer”) might be more dangerous than the general population assumes. Along with their questionable safety, vapes are also falling into the hands of easily influenced teenagers.

Research about e-cigarettes is limited, but what is known is troubling. A study at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at John Hopkins University found that, when heated, vaporizers might release a substantial and unsafe amount of toxic metals also found in conventional cigarettes such as nickel and cadmium. They also release potentially hazardous levels of other toxic substances such as arsenic, chromium and magnesium. Although it is unknown exactly what these chemicals do to the body and brain, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration have tied them to lung, liver, immune system and brain problems as well as some cancers. Additionally, carbonyls, a known carcinogenic, are released when E-juice is heated.

While e-cigarettes are a safer way to use nicotine than traditional cigarettes, this stimulent is still very dangerous. Irina Petrache, a doctor and lung specialist at Indiana University, found that nicotine causes inflammation to the lungs and a diminished ability to fight off foreign substances. The U.S.A.’s number one selling vape, the JUUL, contains as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes in just one pod. Daily vaping also doubles the risk of a heart attack compared to people who do not vape or smoke.

Despite the fact that anyone under the age of 18 cannot legally purchase e-cigarettes, it is extremely easy for minors to procure these devices. A 2017 Monitoring the Future survey sponsored by the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) revealed that 28% of high school seniors have tried vaping. The effect vaping has on teenagers is the opposite of its purpose. “Instead of this being a tradeoff, this could be an entree into what we know can be a lifelong, extraordinarily harmful habit. Kids that start with vaping do transition to smoked tobacco more often than those who’ve never used e-cigarettes,” NIDA Deputy Director Dr. Wilson claims. A research study at University of Southern California’s School of Medicine backs up his claims; teens who vape are six times more likely to smoke regular cigarettes as those who have never vaped.

The evidence that e-cigarettes are potentially dangerous is overwhelming, however more research is needed to fully understand the risks of this new gadget.