Vaping 101: Information for Parents
What is Vaping?
I have to admit, being the mother of three teenagers, the topic of vaping surfaced only in recent years. I was not completely sure what it was but the more my kids talked, the more I learned, which lead me to research.
Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling aerosol, often referred to as vapor, which is produced on an e-cigarette or similar device. Some people use these devices to vape nicotine, THC, the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s mind-altering effects, or even synthetic drugs like flakka (bath salts).
When Was Vaping Created?
The first modern e-cig was created by Hon Lik of Shenyang, Northeast China in 2003. Hon Lik created this product out of the discovery of his father being diagnosed with lung cancer at age 77. After Hon’s failed attempts at quitting smoking via the patch, came the birth of the e-cig.
In the year 2009, vaping went from an underground, cult-like niche pastime to an increasingly popular worldwide phenomenon overnight. Vaping at that time was an industry largely unregulated by the government. You could see advertisements in Times Square with 20 somethings (who could easily pass for 15-year-old kids) vaping in commercials and the trending #vaporized campaign began. The ads were similar to smoking campaigns that were popular in the 1940s. The vaping advertisements were very much geared towards youth with young people in the ads, having fun and laughing while vaping, with many bright colors flashing on the screen and pop music playing.
The brand Juul was an integral part of that campaign. The ad ran for 6 months before Juul decided to pull the campaign, but it was too late. Teenagers quickly gravitated towards vaping with ads on social media instigating this new thing that “everyone needed to try.”
Philip Morris has dominated the tobacco industry. Many tobacco companies are buying out patents from vaping companies and investing in vaping companies. Big tobacco companies realize the consumers believe that vaping is safer than cigarettes and they think vaping is not addictive.
How Does Vaping Work?
Vaping offers a similar sensation to cigarettes. E-cigarettes heat nicotine (extracted from tobacco), along with flavorings, and other chemicals to create a water vapor that you inhale. Users hit the vape device and may feel a burning sensation initially but then the buzz sensation quickly kicks in. A Pod contains the equivalent of the same amount of nicotine that is in 20 cigarettes (one pack.)
While it is not known all of the chemicals that are in e-cigarette pods to date, the argument that vaping is safer than the 7,000 chemicals that cigarettes transmit into your system is quickly becoming a debatable topic.
Ways That Kids Hide Vaping
The vaping industry has created clever every day looking devices to vape with. They can be concealed inside of sharpie looking markers, USB cartridges, whistles, watches, pens, you can even find a “Tic-Tac-Toke” container that appears to be tic-tacs. Kids don’t have to congregate in the bathrooms to vape. They hide Juul’s in their shirt sleeves, bra’s, or lay their head down and “zero it” which means you inhale the vapor and don’t exhale it. Hiding vaping has become such a pervasive part of many teenagers’ lifestyles.
Are you mad reading this? I am angry as I type it. This industry has succeeded in targeting our youth as primary purchasers of these products and many of our youth think it’s the coolest thing. The sneakier the packaging is, it allows for users to toke away in classes. Many vape at school puffing away a cotton candy fume for the rest of the students to annoyingly inhale. Teachers and administrators in the U.S. are trying to help put an end to this epidemic, but the devices are so disguised that it is nearly impossible to catch kids vaping in school. Nor should teachers have to be tasked with this as they have enough to deal with. Teachers can’t just teach anymore but that is another topic…
How Does Vaping Compare to Cigarettes?
One in two long-term smokers will die from smoking cigarettes. There is no doubt that smoking poses a host of long term health consequences however; the argument that vaping is safer is now being researched and challenged at John Hopkins. You can view their full study here.
There has been an outbreak of lung injuries and deaths associated with vaping among teens and young adults. As of December 2019, the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC) confirmed 57 deaths in patients who vaped and smoked e-cigarettes (EVALI). The predominant factor in all of these cases were users who had cartridges containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) as well as vitamin E acetate. The vitamin E acetate is used as a thickening agent and was found in the fluid samples taken from the patients’ lungs postmortem, examined by the CDC.
In 1997, 35% of teenagers smoked cigarettes. To date, it is reported less than 9% of teenagers smoke cigarettes in the United States. The negative to that is the CDC now says that 1 in 4 teens vape.
In the 1960s, the tobacco companies added ammonia to its cigarettes to prolong the life of the product. They knew of the health affects this would create and they kept it quiet. It wasn’t until the 1990s, that the tobacco industry was brought before a U.S. Congressional hearing. Tobacco industries stated that nicotine was not addictive and stated they did not see any health risks associated with smoking cigarettes, including death. It makes me think if tobacco companies in the ’90s testified that there was no harm in smoking, why would we think that vaping companies today wouldn’t advertise the same? Makers of the products are now being held accountable.
Vaping Guidelines Tighten Up
The company Juul was under fire for marketing to teens with candy type of flavors and for their marketing ads. Following intense scrutiny from public health professionals and the government, Juul quit their social media. The company terminated its Instagram and Facebook accounts in November 2018 in an attempt at what they claim is to deter teens from using their products.
The FDA announced new guidelines to ban flavored e-cigarette pods and liquids in retail stores and restricted the sale of these items to smoke shops who have age requirements for purchase, meaning no more flavored pods available at the corner gas station.
In 2018, the FDA launched a host of campaigns to bring awareness to teens. www.whatsinavape.com is a site the FDA launched to educate on the effects of vaping. You can view videos on their site like the one here:
The Real Cost of Vaping
Many argue that vaping is not addictive. Vaping is, in fact, addictive because it contains nicotine which is more addicting than heroin. Columbia University did a study that revealed nicotine bonds to some receptors in the brain and the brain cells are great at receiving the responses of nicotine. This response increases the potential for users to be exposed to addictive habits including long term substance abuse.
The health effects associated with vaping
- EVALI Patients affected by the disease have symptoms ranging from cough, chest pain, and shortness of breath to fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and fever
- Lung disease—which includes chronic bronchitis, emphysema, asthma, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Vaping is bad for your heart and lungs- It causes you to crave a smoke and suffer withdrawal symptoms if you ignore the craving. Nicotine is also a toxic substance. It raises your blood pressure and spikes your adrenaline, which increases your heart rate and the likelihood of having a heart attack.
Talk To Your Kids
Probably the worst thing a parent could do for their child would be to buy an e-cigarette under the misconception that this might prevent them from smoking regular cigarettes. Kids are smart. They do make good decisions and while it may not seem like it at times, they do listen to us. It is crucial that they hear from parents and other loved ones about the dangers of vaping. They may not hear this information from their friends. And while many kids like to argue that vaping is better than cigarettes, let them know that the largest tobacco company in the world now owns most of the vaping companies. Knowledge is power!
As always, thank you for reading and cheers to healthy living!
-XO, Teri Socia, Health & Wellness Blogger