VAPING: An Unhealthy Alternative

Atlantis Conner, Kolby Von Holten, Madeline Ames

Abi Baldwin, Features Editor

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What was once seen as a healthier alternative to cigarettes has become a major health concern for teens, according to medical experts.

Teens today are more likely to fall into nicotine addiction due to vaping, which is detrimental to their mental and physical health. With the increased popularity of vaping, high school students are more susceptible to falling prey to the risks of e-cigarettes.

The modern e-cigarette was invented in 2003 by a Chinese pharmacist, Hon Lik. Since e-cigarettes were first sold in 2004 their global use has risen exponentially.  Smoking and cigarettes were on a slow decline, it was thought that this generation would be the last to see chain-smokers, but all this changed with the rise of modern e-cigarettes.  

   Vaping has now become the latest trend and greatest health risk of the time, popping up everywhere on social media and in public. Though companies swear their marketing is for adults, vapes usually end up in the hands of teenagers.

“Seventy-five percent of my customers come in wanting to stop smoking but a lot can’t so they do the whining process to slowly stop smoking…the larger younger customers do it just for fun,” said David Borella, who is the co-owner of K&D Vape. “Usually [teenagers] go for the [vapes] without nicotine but recently with the smaller devices, like Juul, kids have come in to try to get a higher nicotine level vape.”

Within six months of vaping about a third of teenagers move to normal cigarettes because of their addiction to nicotine, and this is profoundly damaging and harmful to their health.

This resulted in new rules at schools, making the punishment for having an e-cigarette, at least parts of one, the same as being caught with a cigarette. If a student is caught with an e-cigarette one option for punishment is to attend an alternative school, and if a student hated “Character Strong” here they will surely despise it at the alternative school.

There is little to no health regulations for vapes, especially ones bought illegally by a minor.  It wasn’t until recently did the FDA start regulating e-cigarettes in which they took away majority flavors, leaving methanol and the normal taste of tobacco. Theoretically, vape could be “safe” but without regulation, any chemicals could be placed in the cartridge.  Nevertheless, any chemicals found in vapes will damage the human body.

When human tissue is exposed to vape condensate the number of working cell drastically drops and when nicotine is added the numbers drop even more. It also impairs the ability of cells to engulf bacteria, allergens, and other things that attack the body. This results in a weaker defense against infection and inflammation, especially in the lungs that get the full blast of the vape.

In a case study two years ago, Professor Ilona Jaspers of UNC School of Medicine studied the effects of vaping on genes. When people smoke cigarettes, dozens of genes important for immune defense in the nose were altered. Several of these changes increase the risk of bacterial infections, viruses, and inflammation. Jaspers’ lab found that vaping alters the same genes affected during cigarette smoking and hundreds of other genes important for immune defense in the nose and upper airway.

“Some of the effects [from vaping] are the same as a normal cigarette. [It] can make your blood pressure go up, cause strokes, or heart attacks…vapers from device also have cancer-causing agents,” said Pulmonologist Philip Pirtle.

Another possible complication from vaping is popcorn lung. The vape uses the chemical diacetyl, and it is the same chemical used in microwave popcorn that gives its buttery flavor.

“In the 80’s people who worked in the plants that were making this popcorn would develop this horrible lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans airway inflammatory response that causes a great deal of damage to the lung and it leads to symptoms similar to emphysema or COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). It can be treated but it can never be reversed.  The damage that is done to the airways is pretty dramatic and it can be crippling or even lethal.” Pirtle explained

Overall vaping shouldn’t be considered “safe”, damage can still be done to your health no matter if they contain nicotine or tobacco-like normal combustion cigarettes.

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