Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling aerosol or vapor from a liquid that contains nicotine and other substances, such as THC. The vapor is produced by an e-cigarette or other device, like a vape pen or Juul. Juul and other e-cigarette companies have come under fire for deceptive advertising targeting their products to youth, with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declaring teen vaping an “epidemic” Sept. 12.
Smoking vs. Vaping
Originally marketed as a tobacco-free smoking cessation method, vaping has become increasingly popular, especially teen vaping among high school students. Unlike cigarettes, e-cigarettes don’t smell like tobacco or marijuana and are easily disguised. Since they are easier to use without detection, people tend to vape more frequently than they would smoke cigarettes.
What is Juul?
Juul is an e-cigarette company that’s been marketed as an alternative to smoking, e-cigarette and vaping. However, Juuls are vapes and e-cigarettes.
Juul uses nicotine salts rather than pure nicotine, which allows it to provide a higher concentration of nicotine without compromising flavor. Juul may have pioneered the use of nicotine salts in vape devices, but they are available in different brands now as well.
According to the CDC, these salts may allow nicotine to cross the blood-brain barrier in adolescent brains, causing developmental problems, though more study is necessary.
These vaping health risks are in addition to the damage nicotine already causes in a healthy young brain. It can damage the parts of the brain responsible for memory, attention and learning. It also increases the risk of long-term nicotine addiction, mood disorders and a permanent lowering of impulse control, according to the surgeon general.
Juul devices are also easily concealable. Their appearance is often compared to a USB drive, and they can easily fit into a small pocket.
While it appears e-cigs like Juul are less harmful than cigarettes, they are exposing kids and teens to nicotine – one of the most addictive drugs – earlier with colorful customization options and flavors like mango and mint and breakfast cereal and rocket popsicle.
These flavors have appealed to many young people and non-smokers. As a result, people who may not have started smoking have become dependent on nicotine.
. A 2019 survey of more than 5 million students found that 10.5% of those in middle school and 27.5% of those in high school had used vapes and other cigarette products in the last 30 days.
Since 2014, electronic cigarettes have become the most commonly used tobacco product among U.S. middle and high school students.
Why do teens vape?
Vapes are popular because it’s an easy habit to disguise. Some, like the infamous Juul, look like USB flash drives rather than cigarettes. Even for devices that do look like e-cigarettes, it’s easy to hide the fact that you’re vaping. It smells like whatever flavor has been added to it, rather than like tobacco or marijuana.
What are the Side Effects of Vaping?
There is insufficient evidence to suggest that e-cigarettes help smokers quit. The chemicals used in vaping can also contain cancer-causing compounds and harmful particles. This can lead to irreversible damage to health, including popcorn lung, the colloquial name for bronchiolitis obliterans. It is caused by damage to the small airways in the lungs. It gained its name because it was originally caused by exposure to a chemical used to flavor microwave popcorn. Since its discovery, it’s been found that exposure to other chemicals, including those found in e-cigarettes and other vape products, can also cause the condition.
Black market THC vaping cartridges were also found to be the cause of a series of sometimes fatal lung injuries during 2019. This isn’t a problem with professionally made THC cartridges that are available to individuals in states where marijuana is legal. However, teens are at increased risk because they often rely on these black market cartridges since they cannot legally obtain the substance themselves.
Teens and vaping are a bad combination.
Vaping can be dangerous for more than just those using. Some research shows indoor air quality decreases with the increased concentration of nicotine and other compounds that have been linked to lung and cardiovascular disease and cancer among other health effects. To learn how we can help, call Gateway today at 877.505.4673.
Rachel Obafemi, LCPC, MISA, CADC, has been a member of the Gateway Lake Villa treatment team since 2011. She currently serves as program director for the Men’s and Women’s Programs. She has worked in the field of mental health and substance use for over 20 years, fueled by her passion to equip professionals with the skills needed to be successful in their work with patients. Rachel is an advocate of bridging the gaps between mental health, substance use and physical health.