Photo courtesy of AP Images. Two women smoke cannabis vape pens at a party in Los Angeles on June 8, 2019.
BY OMAR ROMERO
Vaping saw a sudden rise to popularity in 2010, and now it seems to have become a national crisis.
Almost all multi-media platforms have some advertisements that warn their audiences about the dangers of vaping and encourage people to quit or never start.
The controversy about vaping started when the original usage of e-cigarettes was misused. E-cigs were originally meant for adults who wanted to quit smoking, but younger people, who never smoked before, started to use them in record numbers.
According to a Vital Signs report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Feb. 2, 2019, “More than one in four high school students and about one in 14 middle school students in 2018 had used a tobacco product in the past 30 days. This was a considerable increase from 2017, which was driven by an increase in e-cigarette use. E-cigarette use increased from 11.7% to 20.8% among high school students and from 3.3% to 4.9% among middle school students from 2017 to 2018.”
The report was followed by another article that was posted by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research that states, “Increases in adolescent vaping from 2017 to 2018 were the largest ever recorded in the past 43 years for any adolescent substance use outcome in the U.S. The percentage of 12th grade students who reported vaping nicotine in the past 30 days nearly doubled, rising from 11% to 21%.”
E-cigs contain nicotine, a highly addictive chemical that can cause numerous harmful health problems, especially for younger people. In regular tobacco cigarettes, most of the nicotine burns away when the cigarette is lit because the tobacco combusts and turns to smoke; however, e-cigs retain most of the nicotine because the product comes in liquid form that turns to vapor when heated and the nicotine remains inside the cartridge until the user takes a puff from the mouthpiece.
E-cigarettes can be appealing because of their design. Unlike regular cigarettes, E-cigs can be sold in a variety of colors and come with various accessories, the most notable being ‘flavors.’ With the ‘flavor’ accessory, vapers can change the taste of the vapor they inhale. A prime example is a product called Boosted, which aims to give the taste of a strawberry milkshake in e-liquid form, it was created by Boosted E-Juice, a company that sells vaping juices.
Rodman Swanson, a film major at College of the Desert, said, “E-cigs sounds kinda like a toy and I don’t want to say that I know what vaping companies are thinking when they make these things, but some of the ways the flavors are named it kinda seems like it’s marketed towards kids especially like some of the vaping equipment is starting to become brighter and more colorful. It’s something that kids can get into because it sounds like addictive legos.”
Elizabeth Goold, a registered nurse and the assistant director of clinical services at College of the Desert who oversees the functioning of the Student Health and Wellness Center, said that the flavor adds to the problem because it’s the nicotine that’s addicting, the flavor just gives a preferable taste.
In regards to if the flavoring can be harmful, Goold said, “The problem with the flavoring is that a lot of these flavorings have been approved for consumption, like in eating, but what has not been studied or regulated is what happens to those flavorings when you heat it because when you heat something you change the formula of it. And so that is what now the Centers for Disease Control is looking at. They have found an additive called ‘Vitamin E acetate.’ In the patients that have died, or ended up in the intensive care unit from vaping, they’re finding that in their lungs they’re finding Vitamin E acetate and this is both with e-cigarettes and THC containing vaping products.
Goold believes Vitamin E acetate seems to be the cause of the vaping epidemic that can injure the lungs. “I think it is safe to eat, and Vitamin E is just a vitamin. But people put that into the oil so that it’s easier to vape it. But I don’t think anybody thought that when combusted, it would cause problems to the lungs. Inhaled versus eating are two very different things, and I think that’s what we’re starting to see.”
The CDC reported on Nov. 5, 2019, that 77% of 2,016 hospitalization cases regarding e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated with lung injuries, were under 35 years old, with a median age of 24 years and age range from 13 to 78 years (among 1,906 patients with data on age). And of that data with ages, 38% of patients were 18 to 24 years old and 15% of patients were under 18 years old.
As of Nov. 20, 2019, 47 deaths have been confirmed in 25 states and the District of Columbia.
College students are part of the target demographic, and several COD students, both vapers and non-vapers, explained why they made their choice when it comes to vaping.
“I started vaping in high school thinking it was like the ‘cool thing’ and it turned into a snowball effect of me doing it every single day buying my own vapes,” said Kiana Sempek, a journalism major.
“I think what really got me hooked on it was the feeling after because I used to get this feeling where you get kind of dizzy and you feel kind of cool, but I think just because of that and then continuing to do it got me addicted to the nicotine itself. So from then on, it was just like an addiction to nicotine.”
Sempek recently was told by a doctor that she has a lump in her neck because of her addiction to vaping, and currently, she is now recovering from her addiction.
Jose Issac Gonzalez, a film major, shared his reasons as to why he continues to vape while knowing the consequences, “Well the thing is that since I work a lot, like in editing film, I find that when I vape, I relax and focus more. I’ve tried to work without it, and I just find that I either lose focus or I don’t get as hooked into the project as I would if I were vaping and it’s not like crazy vaping, but you know it’s just helping me for some reason.”
Although Gonzalez vapes, he did say he was planning to quit because of his kids. Jose never vapes around his kids, and he does not want them to take something harmful and apply it to their lives.
“Look at the news and see how many kids are being hospitalized, and a lot of the doctors don’t know what to do because it’s so new and they don’t know how to help these kids. Some of them are in high school and facing terrible health risks right now.” said journalism major, Chloe Strickland.
Vaping continues to be popular among young people, but as cases of illness related to vaping continue on the rise, activism from anti-vaping groups spreads around communities and with more research on the effects of vaping being conducted, it still unclear what the future of vaping is here in the country.