Over the previous two decades, we celebrated a decrease in youth smoking trends. The rate has further decreased as the message about the health risks that surround cigarettes has seemed to hit home with its target audience.
Unfortunately, we cannot celebrate this achievement quite yet as there has been an uptick in a new nicotine delivery trend: vaping. Over the past two years, teens have taken to vaping at an unprecedented rate. When e-cigarettes and vaping devices first came about, they were marketed as smoking cessation devices for adults. The products claimed to be able to deliver nicotine without the benefit of removing the dangerous by-products of combustion.
While vaping used to be dubbed as “safe smoking,” new evidence has come to light that proves the opposite is true. In 2015, the vaping market made many significant changes, including:
- Smaller and more easily disguised units
- Brightly colored packaging with sweet, enticing flavors such as jolly rancher, strawberry milk and fruity pebbles
- Social media showcased commercials with young people dancing and vaping. This has made vaping more appealing to teenagers, and marketing to younger populations has become the norm
- Middle school and High school-aged kids have taken to vaping like wildfire, with 27.8% of teens have taken up the vaping habit
What is vaping?
Vaping gets its name from the vapor that’s produced when an electrical coil heats an installed packet of liquid/juice, vaporizing it to allow it to be inhaled. The types of vaping devices vary from cigarette looking, pen shapes, or the Juul, which features a slim rectangular device similar to a flash drive. These devices deliver nicotine and flavoring. To use the device, you inhale the vapor and exhale a small amount, which may or may not emit an odor. To recharge, the devices use small USB plugs that can connect with most wall plugs.
How are kids gaining access to them?
Even though tobacco products are illegal for those under 18, it seems that teenagers aren’t having much of an issue obtaining vape devices. Many of the products are sold over the internet with very little in the way of age verification, and storefront shops are popping up nearly everywhere.
Teenagers are getting their hands on vapes through social connections or lax law enforcement. Once they’ve gotten their hands on them, they are often hard for parents and teachers to identify and monitor their use and spread. For example, many students are taking advantage of the times when teachers turn their backs during class and vaping. The vape cloud quickly dissipates, leaving very little evidence. The absence of the smell cigarettes cause helps to keep parents out of the loop.
What is the medical evidence showing the harm in vaping?
While direct evidence will be hard to come by for vaping due to it being a new fad, there is some evidence that it isn’t as great of a substitute for tobacco use. All vape pods contain nicotine in amounts that tend to be higher than those found in cigarettes. There is no doubt that nicotine is highly addictive, and breeds concerns about the potential development of other tobacco habits. The damage that nicotine addiction does to cardiovascular health is well documented.
The liquids found in e-cigarettes and vaping liquid tend to be questionable, like diacetyl, which is used to provide the sweet flavor and originated as a flavoring agent for popcorn. Diacetyl is thought to be the cause of Bronchiolitis Obliterans in popcorn factory workers that failed to use proper respiratory protection. The condition is now known as popcorn lung and causes the alveolar walls to break down in the lungs. Another chemical often found in vapes is glycerol, the compound breaks down to formaldehyde, which is a well-known cancer-causing agent when heated. With all of these chemicals being inhaled deep into the lungs, there are bound to be significant consequences.
How do we protect our patients?
Raising awareness with not only parents, but teenagers as well can help to set patients on the right track to being informed about what it is they are putting into their body. Despite the fact that there are not many long-term studies, there is enough information available to advise that vaping is both addictive and unhealthy. Most teens are under the impression that vaping is a fun and consequence-free habit, but as clinicians, you must inform them that the opposite is exact.
At MedCare Staffing, we do our best to stay up to date in all news related to the medical field. Teen vaping is alarming to us. For tips on how to talk to teenagers about vaping, check out this guide from the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.
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