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The lethal trend of teen vaping.

Posted Oct 25, 2019

Teens & Vaping, A Lethal Trend

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Teen Addiction
Source: Dani Ramos/Unsplash

Over the last decade, the use of electronic smoking devices, also known as e-cigarettes or vape, has become quite popular worldwide. There are many reasons for the attraction of vaping products, including convenience, tech-savvy appearance, and the level of discretion that they provide for users. Thanks to e-cigarette companies like Juul, people are now able to smoke indoors without drawing much attention and without the apparent stigma or danger synonymous with smoking cigarettes.  

Additionally, vaping is used to inhale flavored vapor, nicotine, and marijuana, and some studies indicate that they are even more addictive than traditional smoking. This is a result of the fact that the “high” achieved when smoking electronically is intensified, which means a higher probability of forming an addiction to the nicotine or marijuana being used. According to sources, this is especially true for marijuana, because the concentration levels of the THC oil used in vape pens is much higher than the THC concentration consumed when smoking the old-fashioned way. 

What is most concerning however is that vaping has become popular among teens and adolescents.

A recent survey found that 2 out of 5 high school students have tried e-cigarettes and that  37 percent of high school seniors in the US are currently using them.  Just one year ago, the number was 28 percent among high school seniors. The number continues to rise.

VapeClub/Unsplash
Teens and Vape
Source: VapeClub/Unsplash

If that is not alarming enough, it has also been reported that 17 percent of the youth using vapes are only in 8th grade, which means they are 13 and 14 years old. In a recent survey, 13 percent of teens admitted that they did not know the exact ingredients in their vapes and e-cigs, while 66 percent claimed that their vapes contained only flavoring, 5 percent admitted to vaping marijuana, and the other 13 percent reported using vapes and e-cigs that contain nicotine. Many of the children and teens surveyed stated that they were not exactly sure what they were smoking. 

This is dangerous for many reasons.  

The Brain

The brain development that takes place during the teenage years lays the foundation for the early stages of adulthood and beyond. There is a small window in which a great deal of brain development occurs. Research indicates that constant vaping and e-cigarette use (especially with marijuana) can have a drastically negative impact on the brain during this critical time of development. It can affect attention span and impulse control and create problems enduring into adulthood. 

The Body

The trouble with nicotine (the main ingredient in most vapes) is that, according to some studies, it is more addictive to the body than heroin and cocaine. In addition to nicotine, there are other harmful ingredients in vape pens, including diacetyl, a flavoring chemical that has been known to cause “popcorn lung”—damage to the smallest airways in the lung, marked by coughing and shortness of breath—in addition to irritating the entire respiratory system and causing or worsening asthma. 

The Gateway

Vaping also encourages and leads to smoking marijuana and cigarettes at an early age. The mere practice of engaging with the vaping behaviors, and the associated language, culture, habits, and highs, are a form of behavioral conditioning that is considered the foundation for addictive behavior in adulthood.

The horrifying news is that the companies know about it and actively design campaigns to target youth. 

Recently the marketing strategies of vaping companies have been called into question.  A current concern is that the campaigns are specifically targeting teens. The goal of the e-cigarette companies is not just to turn the teens on to buying products now but to acculturate them into the "addictive substance pipeline" of nicotine, alcohol, THC and other products, whereby the companies can continue to profit for the lifespan of the consumer.

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Teen Addiction
Source: Arvin Keynes/Unsplash

 In the early 1990s, a similar issue arose when cigarette companies had to answer to using cartoon characters in their marketing campaigns that were said to target children. Although the legal age to purchase cigarettes in the US is 18 years old, the use of cartoon characters in smoking ads was believed to directly target and have an impact on young children and teens, enticing them to be future customers. 

Today vape and e-cig brands are facing a similar morality check for using flavors like candy and ice cream to attract younger consumers.  These flavors mask the taste of tobacco and distract children and teens from the harsh reality that vape pens and e-cigs are poison with the ability to rewire the brain.

According to Flavor Hooks Kids, four out of five kids who have used tobacco started with a flavored product of some sort.  As a result of the alarming number of illnesses and deaths associated with teen vaping, the Food and Drug Administration is currently seeking nationwide bans and restrictions on some tobacco products, including flavored cigars and fruit-flavored nicotine vape cartridges. 

Juul, one of the largest companies, and one that has been under scrutiny for their marketing behaviors in the past, has recently shut down its social media marketing pages and restricted some of its sales. This is likely in preparation for the FDA crackdown that is in the near future due to the dangers of vaping. According to Forbes, there are at least four lawsuits against Juul, for claiming that its products are a safe alternative to smoking when studies have found them to be more addictive than cigarettes and more harmful to the health of consumers.  

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Stop Teen Vaping
Source: Gabriel Ramos/Unsplash

Unfortunately, the long-term consequences of vaping are unknown, due to the fact that they have only been around for a decade. There has been a significant spike recently in lung disease so that the products are being banned in many states and there is an active, high-profile investigation into the products. Even the President of the United States has expressed concern on the matter, demanding answers to the current health concerns.

Prevention starts with education, communication, and active engagement in your teen's life. If you need further assistance or information you can seek help from a qualified teen addiction or teen treatment specialist.

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