The trend of vaping has not spread so much as it has exploded in recent years. While e-cigarettes used to be reserved for pack-a-day smokers desperate to quit the dangerous habit, e-cigarettes, JUULing, and vaping are now all the rage for young people across the United States. Usage rates have increased by over 75% just in high school students, and it’s becoming a national issue as more troubling data is uncovered.
The main danger of vaping as a whole is that the long-term effects are largely unknown, and could be devastating to people’s health. New studies and information are emerging on this topic all the time, but as of right now, this is the most recent data on the e-cigarette trend that has swept across the globe.
What is Vaping?
In technical terms, vaping is inhaling and exhaling aerosol produced by an e-cigarette. The term comes from the point that e-cigarettes do not produce smoke, but instead the aerosol which is clear and seems like a good alternative to tobacco smoke. However, as usage rises, it’s becoming more clear that vaping carries its own health risks, and worse, we don’t have a clear picture of exactly what they are.
Originally, vaping was designed for people with severe smoking habits who were making an effort to quit. The e-cigarette allowed them to experience the nicotine levels a cigarette offers without inhaling the harmful toxins and chemicals that are included in cigarettes. Vaping is healthier than smoking, hypothetically, since nicotine doesn’t cause cancer associated with smoking, and e-cigarettes do not involve actual smoke or the toxins that come with it. However, nicotine is highly addictive, at least as difficult to give up as heroin, and that’s where the problem with vaping comes into play.
Below is a sample clip from the video with teacher’s guide:
Why Has Vaping Gotten Popular?
Vaping has become popular with young people for a multitude of reasons, but mostly because e-cigarette companies have made it their business to appeal to young people. The JUUL, for instance, is a sleek, aesthetically pleasing e-cigarette, and the company has also developed aerosol cartridges with appealing flavors. This was all a large campaign designed to appeal to a more youthful audience as smoking rates plummeted and fewer people were interested in e-cigarettes.
The high nicotine content associated with vaping means that kids are getting addicted to nicotine after trying the flavored vape products that are being marketed to them. Additionally, the latest vaping products are easy to use discreetly, and frankly, just look cool. Kids are trying out these highly addictive products that in the short term don’t seem dangerous. However, in the long term, more and more evidence is piling up that these products could cause major health problems.
Are E-Cigarettes Harmless?
While e-cigarettes are substantially less detrimental to your health than conventional cigarettes, they are not free of toxins. The term vaping heavily implies that users are simply inhaling the vapor, a gaseous substance and nothing more. The problem is that e-cigarettes still deliver harmful chemicals and contain toxins. They simply contain much fewer than combustible cigarettes.
In addition, vaping products vary enormously across the industry. At this point, there is no typical e-cigarette. While the basic technology behind vaping is consistent, the actual products have different ingredients and hardware. They also deliver highly variable levels of both nicotine and other potentially toxic chemicals. The inconsistency makes it very difficult for public health recommendations to be made since some e-cigarettes are much less harmful than others. This is a major public health issue since vaping products are quite literally designed to deliver chemicals through inhalation. It seems crucial for safety that users know what chemicals they are actually inhaling. It’s this lack of education that shows public health authorities that there needs to be more information available about which products have been reviewed for toxicity, nicotine delivery efficiency, and overall consumer safety.
The current regulatory system hasn’t caught up to the popularity of these products. There are major barriers to marketing products for quitting smoking or switching to e-cigarettes from conventional cigarettes, but almost no barriers for selling e-cigarettes as a recreational product. This means that there is a major gap in regulation where these recreational products can be flooded into the market without businesses having to worry about the overall safety of their products.
What Does Vaping Actually Do to Your Body?
In recent reports from the CDC , there have been nearly 200 cases of e-cigarette users developing severe lung disease. These cases are spread across 22 states so far, and the numbers are continuing to rise. In a recent Washington Post article a reporter claimed that the number of cases currently stands at 354 across 29 states. Most of the patients are teens or young adults. The problem is that correlation doesn’t mean causation, and although it seems highly coincidental that these cases are completely unrelated to habitual vaping, science hasn’t caught up to a point where professionals can point to the problem and say “Yes, vaping causes lung disease”.
What they can say at this point is that the most likely reason for these cases of lung disease is containment, not an infection. The likely causes could be chemical irritation, allergic or immune system reactions to the chemicals or some other combination of substances in the inhaled vapors. According to current reports, symptoms began with shortness of breath or chest pain before severe difficulty breathing lead to hospital admissions. While the CDC and FDA are investigating these cases thoroughly, they haven’t been able to link them to any specific type of e-cigarette or even vaping in general as of yet.
However, there are some clearly defined health risks that are associated with vaping. Some of these include the following:
- Nicotine is highly addictive and can affect the developing brain of teens and adults. Much like decaf coffee, even some “nicotine-free” e-cigarettes have been found to contain nicotine, so even the so-called “safe” e-cigarettes carry some risk.
- While vaping itself hasn’t been satisfactorily linked to lung disease, substances found in e-cigarette vapor have been linked to an increased risk of cancer.
- Teens who vape regularly are more likely than their counterparts to begin smoking cigarettes.
- Accidental exposure to the liquid from vaping devices has caused acute nicotine poisoning in both children and adults.
- Vaping during pregnancy could harm the development of a fetus.
Below is a sample clip from the video with teacher’s guide:
Major Health Questions About Vaping
There are several questions that need to be answered by health care professionals on the overall risks associated with vaping. At the moment, it’s not clear how vaping really affects the lungs or how it can become harmful when combined with other mitigating factors. For instance, those who have asthma might be at higher risk for lung problems associated with vaping than those without asthma. Those who use marijuana might be placed at higher risk as well due to the combination of substances being introduced to their lungs. And of course, it’s also unclear how age plays into lung problems associated with vaping. It’s possible that young people are predisposed to lung disease due to vaping.
Keep in mind that the FDA doesn’t regulate e-cigarettes, and it’s very difficult to get answers about any of these questions. There simply isn’t enough long-term data to give people the answers that they need to make an educated decision about vaping.
The Argument For Vaping
One of the main arguments in favor of vaping is that vaping helps people stop smoking. This would absolutely be a benefit, but the evidence of exactly how helpful vaping is in eliminating a smoking habit is inconclusive. There’s no clear comparison between vaping as a method of quitting versus the nicotine patch, for instance. The FDA has not approved vaping as a method of quitting smoking. There’s also the fact that in many cases, smokers continue to smoke regular cigarettes while incorporating vaping into their routine. This offsets the benefits of e-cigarettes substantially.
E-cigarettes have the potential to help adult smokers if they make the switch completely, but the FDA has warned people that vaping is not safe for young people, pregnant women, or anyone who does not currently use tobacco products. Overall, the utter lack of substantial long-term data means that the FDA and the CDC have to wait until they have more compelling numbers to make a full judgment on the safety of e-cigarette usage.
The Bottom Line on Vaping
Overall, provided you are not currently a smoker, there is no guarantee that introducing e-cigarettes into your routine will not have long term adverse health effects. Although it is early in the process, the evidence is piling up that vaping is dangerous. It’s likely that eventually, we will see today’s youth in the same predicament as those who were young smokers in the midst of realizing that smoking causes cancer- addicted to nicotine and trying desperately to quit. While public information on vaping is seriously lacking, education is critical in attempting to prevent the spread of vaping as a habit. This is especially important for students and young people in school. Introducing information on vaping and nicotine addiction early and in an environment where it will be drilled into students that it is a dangerous habit increases the chances that they won’t fall victim to this trend.
As the vaping trend continues to evolve, it’s crucial that the health class curriculum and the general drug and nicotine education adjust to address the danger of this habit. Teens and young adults are incredibly susceptible to suggestions, particularly from major companies on topics that are already seen as “cool”. It is likely that in the future, we will see a similar education trend towards vaping as we have seen towards smoking. That is, it will become a standard lesson for young kids that vaping is bad for you and you should not do it. But that will only come if educational systems take the first step and begin addressing the issue with their students early before they fall victim to the potential long term health damage. As new studies and data continue to be released, teachers and parents should continue to discuss the matter with their students or children. This way teens and young adults will have a safe space to ask questions and receive answers in a non-confrontational manner that will hopefully prevent them from ever introducing these nicotine products into their bodies.
How Can I Educate My Students on the Risks of Vaping?
Providing teachers with resources on how to approach the dangers of vaping with their students is a critical way to fight the spread of this habit. Accordingly, our team has created resources to not only educate students on the risks of JUUling, vaping, and generally using e-cigarettes, but also give teachers information to answer their questions. If you’re looking for educational resources on the topic of JUULing and vaping, any of our products below may be helpful to you:
JUULing and Vaping: What the Latest Research Reveals – This educational package provides teaching materials on all of the latest vaping research so you can educate your students with the latest data from the CDC and FDA.
How to Quit JUULing and Vaping – This program introduces strategies to young people who already have a JUULing habit but are looking for ways to quit.
Everything You Need to Know About E-Cigarettes, Vaping, and Hookah – This program is designed to challenge the perception that e-cigarettes and hookahs are risk-free and provide hard evidence for students that vaping in any form carries risk.
Resources to Educate Your Students on the Risk and Dangers of Vaping and Juuling
This program challenges the belief, that e-cigarettes and hookahs are risk-free, healthy alternatives to traditional cigarettes. It shows how in a typical hookah session a smoker inhales 100 times the amount of toxin-laden smoke. Learn more . . .
The CDC reports that in 2018 more than 3 million teenagers are currently vaping and that number is climbing exponentially. This video presents the latest research on vaping to educate teens and help them understand the risks. Learn more . . .
The program clearly describes several quitting methods including cold turkey, tapering and nicotine replacement therapy. Teens using these methods inform viewers of what works and what doesn’t and why. Learn more . . .
If your school or organization does not have these videos, you can purchase them from Live Wire Media, or request them from your local library.
Subscribe to our almost
Get breaking news and developments in character education and helpful tips and ideas that you can use with your own character education program.
View this month’s newsletter.