Teen vaping surges, new studies reveal health dangers

By Jasmine Pascual, Staff Writer/Webmaster

It’s not cool to Juul in school, or anywhere else for teens, according to health officials.

Yet in the past seven years, the popularity of vaping among teenagers has exploded, increasing by 900 percent, even though the legal age to buy vape pens is 18, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports.

Some Indian Trail High School & Academy teens are among those users. And while students may think of vaping as a safer alternative than smoking cigarettes, new studies are beginning to reveal that vaping is just a whole different mixture of toxic chemicals users are putting into their lungs.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent warning to 40 retailers for selling the e-cigarette brand Juul to minors and also asked the company for its research on the product’s appeal to children and teens.

In a separate action, the FDA and the Federal Trade Commission issued a warning against 13 manufacturers, distributors and retailers of e-cigarette liquids, saying the companies are endangering kids by marketing the products in a manner that resembles candy, cookies and juice boxes.

As federal health officials continue to evaluate the impact of the product on human health, several recent scientific findings have officials alarmed about the presence of dangerous, lung-destroying chemicals in the liquids used in vaping devices.

To vape is to inhale vapor through the mouth from a usually battery-operated electronic device that heats up and vaporizes a liquid or solid. It’s what is in that liquid that has scientists especially concerned.

A 2016 Harvard University study confirmed the presence of diacetyl in 39 of 51 samples of various types of e-cigarettes. Diacetyl and 2,3-pentainedione are two chemicals present in some of the flavorings, and they are concerning because studies have found the chemicals destroy the lungs’ tiniest airways, leading to scar tissue buildup that blocks airflow and leads to serious lung disease. The study also found that many of the e-cigarettes marketed as nicotine-free do indeed contain nicotine.

Despite the potential risks, some IT students vape pretty regularly.

“I pretty much vape every day. I mostly just hit my friend’s vapes when I’m hanging out with them. I don’t currently own my own vape,” said Indian Trail General Studies senior Hadden Harms, 18.

A 17-year-old IT Business Academy senior admits to indulging once a week in vaping with friends.

They aren’t alone. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, youth are more likely than adults to vape. The latest statistics on vaping reveal more than 11 percent of high school students use e-cigarettes and 4.3 percent of middle school students do. Meanwhile, just 3.2 percent of adults use e-cigarettes.

Vaping in this day and age is described as a social activity to do with friends said several students interviewed by The Pulse.

Other than using vape as a form of socializing, a Bradford High School senior vapes for a different reason.

“I vape to relieve stress,” said Bradford senior James Green, 18.

Originally vaping was an outlet for  smokers to quit smoking but studies are showing how the use of vaping has shifted.

More people are using vape as a form of expression to boost the social image they wish others to view them by rather than the original purpose of vaping as a form of quitting smoking.

In a survey conducted by LiveScience.com, there are seven main reasons why people vape. Low cost, flavor choices, favorable odor, safe to use, can use indoors, quit smoking, and social image.

Students are vaping, despite acknowledging the habit is not harmless.

“It can give you something called popcorn lung,” said the Business Academy senior.

“Popcorn Lung” is the informal term for bronchiolitis obliterans, a disease that results in the obstruction of the smallest airways of the lungs due to inflammation.

“Putting anything in your lungs other than air is harmful, however it’s less harmful than other forms of nicotine,” Green contends.

Students also said they believed it was a lot less harmful than other substances containing nicotine.

Although not all e-liquids include nicotine, most often vaping products contain nicotine solutions that are heated to create a vapor.

Interviewed students said they would continue to vape even after legitimate proof surfaces that it is dangerous.

“Because it’s less harmful than cigarettes and tastes better, I would continue vaping,” said Green.

“I would probably continue to vape because there’s no way it’s as bad as smoking a cigarette,” said Harms.

Vape becomes addictive when nicotine is involved, with a low dose of nicotine less addictive than a high amount of nicotine. Regardless, vaping may be a lot more dangerous than teens make it out to be.

“I don’t think that regular vapes with low amount of nicotine in the juice are addictive but I do think that the high nicotine vapes like Juuls are addictive because of the large amount of nicotine. One pod for the Juul is equivalent to one pack of cigarettes,” said Harms.

IT student’s had final thoughts on vaping.

“At the end of the day, vape is vape,” said the 17-year-old Business Academy senior.

Another student puts perspective on the health risks.

“It’s a great alternative to cigarettes and other tobacco products but probably isn’t the best for you,” said Green.

Once high school and college are over, students feel it’s probably best to stop vaping once it’s time to start a family or just simply be an adult.

“I see myself eventually phasing out of vaping but as of now I’m not stopping anytime soon,” Harms said.