Vaping: a new epidemic

Is vaping safer than smoking?

Aleah Josephsen, Co-Sports Editor

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Is vaping actually safer than smoking? Vaping is marketed to be safer than the traditional cigarette; however, this discovery doesn’t mean it’s “good” for the body.

According to the New York Times, 78% more high schoolers vaped in 2018 than in 2017. Almost 5 million highschool and middle schoolers combined nationwide identified themselves as current e- cigarette users, making vaping the most commonly used tobacco product (2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey). Studies have also shown that “the youths using e-cigarettes are not the kids who probably would have smoked cigarettes; they are the kids who are the least likely to smoke.” Instead of replacing cigarettes, they seem to be expanding their marketplace.

According to the FDA, vaping has recently been linked as a cause for nicotine seizures. The seizures are directly caused by nicotine poisoning. The FDA has noted 35 cases directly related to vaping in the last decade, with a slight increase in recent years. Although the seizure lasts a couple seconds, they can be a sign of an underlying neurological disorder. The commissioner of the FDA released a statement earlier this year stating “We know that nicotine isn’t a harmless substance, especially in the developing brains of our youth.”

Nicotine Poisoning is caused by an overexposure of nicotine in the body. This can be from inhaling, swallowing or absorption by the skin. According to MedicalNewsToday, this type of poisoning was relatively rare until e-cigarettes saw an increase. In just one JUUL pod there is about 20 cigarettes worth of nicotine or a pack of cigarettes. In a Pediatrics study, it was shown that most of the adolescents were unaware of the amount of nicotine they ingest. The amount of nicotine vapes contain is a reason for the increase in poisoning and possible link to the seizures.

The known side effects of vaping are small compared to traditional cigarettes; however, studies are constantly discovering more and more of the dangers linked with vaping. The short amount of time vaping has been around compared to cigarettes is the main cause of the lack of data. The well known effects known are lung and heart problems. According to The Real Cost, The flavoring chemical Diacetyl used in most e-cigs can cause popcorn lungs, otherwise known as bronchiolitis obliterans. This disease causes severe inflammation in the lungs tissues and airways which leads to scarring. This leads to permanent breathing difficulties. Vapes have also been found to contain metals including nickel, tin and aluminum which end up inside the lungs of the user (The Real Cost). In addition, vaping has been connected to increased risk for a heart attack as well as many heart diseases. According to Science Daily, Users are 56% more likely to have a heart attack and 30% more likely to have a stroke than non users .

Vaping has become an epidemic in the U.S. According to USA Today, 12 states, including Washington State, and 450 local governments have recently raised the age limit for both vaping and smoking from 18 to 21. Senator Mitch McConnell(R) is planning on introducing a new bill which would make the nationwide age limit increase to 21. This will be accompanied by bills from the last Congress which are going to be reintroduced. The FDA is working to tighten the guidelines on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. A few of the companies which sell e-cigarettes are also trying to help by cracking down on how youth get their products and listing dangers on their sites. JUUL is now launching a new pilot program which would track vapes confiscated from a youth and tracing the Juul back to the original source.

Recently, the FDA Center for Tobacco Products has launched a Real Cost Campaign targeted toward vaping. Most tobacco companies don’t highlight the risks associated with their products, which is where the campaign comes in. From commercials to minigames, the campaign’s goal is to lay out the facts and dangers of vaping in order to help people make their own, well-informed decision. According to the campaign,“The Real Cost” gives you what you need to know – real facts, so you can make your own decision.