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The Vaping Epidemic by Melina Mofidi

Uncategorized Dec 02, 2019

Vape pens/E-cigs were introduced into the market in 2007; their purpose being an alternative to smoking, something to help people with their tobacco addictions. These vape pens which were originally made for adults are now primarily being used by teens, and it’s not for the better. They were made to solve a problem, but instead, it’s caused a huge problem, an epidemic. Multiple illnesses and deaths have occurred from vape pens, and it doesn't look like it will be stopping anytime soon.

Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the vapor produced by the heated nicotine liquid of a vape pen, e-cig, e.t.c. There are many harmful chemicals in these devices that many are not aware of, like Nicotine, carbonyls, volatile O.C (organic compound), particles, metals, and Endotoxins (from bacteria)/Glycans (from fungus). The 3 big categories that are used in vape pens are nicotine, THC/CBD, and DABS, which all have detrimental effects. 

There are now 530 cases of vape related illnesses, a substantial growth from late August of 2019 when there were only 215. This number won’t stop increasing, and neither will the amount of deaths vaping has caused, which has recently risen to 8. Many have been brainwashed into thinking vaping is healthy and doesn’t carry any risks with it, but the opposite is true. Vaping has been linked to an increase in cancer, lung illnesses as well as others, like pneumonia, and an increase in circulatory problems. Vape pens contain high amounts of nicotine which is highly addictive and can affect the developing brain. One Juul pod contains the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. The FDA even warns that vaping is “not safe for youth, young adults, pregnant women, or adults who do not currently use tobacco products.” 

Teens still continue to vape, and it’s become more popular than ever. Robert H. Shmerling says, “According to a recent study, about 37% of high school seniors reported vaping in 2018, up from 28% the year before. An estimated 2.1 million middle school and high school students reported using e-cigarettes in 2017; that number jumped to 3.6 million in 2018.” But how are these students getting access to these products? Vape pens are only sold to people 21 years old and over (18&19 in some states), so it would seem that teens don’t get their hands on them, but they do. This is because of multiple reasons. One, the restrictions aren’t very tight, “Ann Arbor is selling to teens without asking for IDs,” says Sarah, the mom of a teen that was caught vaping on school grounds. Although many places are tightening restrictions, kids can still purchase Juul from the internet, by just clicking a button that says they are at least 21 years old. “The majority of adolescents I see are purchasing JUUL from the Internet,” says Dr. Taskiran. He also says that “Nicotine use in adolescence can cause a reduced attention span, diminished cognition, and enhanced impulsivity.”

So what makes teens want to vape so bad? Advertisements and marketing are the main contributors. “There are features such as youthful images and colors, actors who appear to be younger than 21, and suggestions that vaping makes you happier and improves your social status in the ads,” CMI states. But that’s not the only thing; there’s ample evidence that flavors are among the top contributors to vaping for teens. Ease of use is another contributor. And since they leave little odor, vape pens and e-cigarettes are easy to hide and use in public places like school. But this needs to stop, and there has already been action to ban vape pens across the country.

According to vox.com, “The outbreak, together with the youth survey data, prompted the White House to announce that it’s planning to ban flavored e-cigarettes in the coming months.” They also stated that “Michigan became the first state to approve a ban on e-cigarette flavors, but it hasn’t yet enacted the new law. Over a week later, New York pushed ahead and enacted a similar ban. Massachusetts and California are eyeing similar measures, according to the New York Times. And influential public health advocates, including Mike Bloomberg, have come out in favor of banning flavors as a way to curb the youth vaping epidemic.” 

So what are we going to do about it? I, for one, have identified this as a huge problem, and have come up with a few solutions that may help. The first is that there should be more awareness around vaping and its effects. Many teens vape without knowing all the side effects. Having assemblies at school where someone can talk about vape would be helpful along with clubs, posters, campaigns, and more. The more awareness there is around vaping and it’s risks, the less inclined teens will be to vape. Another helper would be to put a permanent ban on flavors, Michigan being the first state to do this. Flavors are one of the biggest contributors to teens buying vape pens and e-cigs, so getting rid of the flavors, could reduce the number of vape pens sold. The Tobacco Control Act banned flavors in normal cigarettes, so it’s possible to ban flavors in e-cigarettes. Marketing and ads which have been criticized by health officials, lawmakers, and parents for attracting young people to vape,  should put disclaimers and additional information because many of them are misleading. Putting a sales tax on vape pens could lower the sales of vape pens and the money from the taxes could go to the government who could start awareness campaigns, workshops, and more - all with the target of increasing awareness about these products. 17-year-old Jack Waxman, the founder of Juulers against Juul, says that “It comes down to more regulation in the form of legislation, more prevention in the form of youth to youth talks, and more engagement with parents.”

Though there have been countless amounts of studies and research into vaping, there’s still a lot we don’t know about it; things we have to figure out. The best thing to do now is just to avoid vaping until we know more and hope that there’s a solution to this problem. “ It took many years to recognize the damage cigarettes can cause. We could be on a similar path with vaping,” Robert H.Shmerling says.

 

--Triveni Patel

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