VAPING – High-Risk Behavior, Health Consequences

In recent years, teens across the nation have been quick to drop traditional cigarette smoking and pick up a newer way to consume nicotine – vaping.  The adverse impact and health risks of vaping were covered during assemblies with guest speaker Bridget Gardner, RN, Sudden Impact Program Director with University Medical Center (UMC). Sudden Impact, founded in 1999 by Ms. Gardner, aims to help prevent fatalities and injuries from driving impaired, distracted and/or unrestrained. The program focuses on the ability of teens to make good choices that affect their life for the better. For several years Dominican has participated in the Sudden Impact program. The presentation on vaping focused on educating the audience about the high-risk behavior and the lifetime impact of health decisions.

A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that in 2018, more than 3.6 million middle and high school kids used e-cigarettes. The number of middle and high school students using e-cigarettes rose in the last year: from 2.1 million in 2017 to 3.6 million in 2018 — a difference of 1.5 million, according to the study. 

The CDC conducted the report in the spring of 2018, interviewing more than 20,000 middle and high school students about their tobacco use in the previous month. While traditional cigarette smoking has decreased, vaping has exploded: nearly 30 percent of high school students who said they used e-cigarettes said they’ve vaped at least 20 days in the past month — a 40% increase from 2017.

“The skyrocketing growth of young people’s e-cigarette use over the past year threatens to erase progress made in reducing youth tobacco use. It’s putting a new generation at risk for nicotine addiction,” CDC Director Robert R. Redfield noted.

According to the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey, 3.6 million middle and high school students vape, said Ms. Gardner. Eighty-five percent of e-cigarette user ages 12-17 use flavors. Among the factors contributing to the increased use of vaping are curiosity, taste, and the misperception that vaping is less harmful than tobacco products and less high risk than alcohol or drugs. Seventy percent of e-cigarette sales are Juuls.  

E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that can look like a real cigarette or pen. Some with refillable tanks look a bit different. They also are known as e-pipes. Hookah pens, vape pens, and vaporizers. There are hundreds of brands, and they’re sometimes marketed as a way to get a nicotine fix without the danger of cigarettes. Federal law prohibits selling E-cigarettes to anyone under the age of 21.

“The use of e-cigarettes does not protect the user from tobacco cigarettes. On the contrary, it is a gateway to tobacco use,” added Ms. Gardner.  According to the American Journal of Medicine, young adults who use E-cigarettes are more than four times as likely to begin smoking tobacco cigarettes within the 18 months as their peers who do not vape.

There are numerous reasons not to vape. Among these: The ingredients are addictive. Because the brain is still developing during the teen years, this age group is vulnerable to addiction. Vaping affects memory and concentration. It contains harmful chemicals and tiny particles that harm the lungs. Vaping places the teen user at a higher risk of smoking cigarettes and is linked to other substance abuse.

“One cartridge of flavored liquid is the amount of nicotine equivalent to a pack of cigarettes (200 puffs). Nicotine, when vaporized, is absorbed within seconds,” said Ms. Garner.  “It has potent addictive properties in teens.”

Some brands contain chemicals, including formaldehyde (often used in building materials), and another ingredient used in antifreeze that can cause cancer. There is a range of flavors in e-cigarettes. Some use a buttery tasting chemical called diacetyl, which is often added to foods like popcorn. When it’s inhaled, it can be dangerous, causing “popcorn lungs.” The chemical damage is to the bronchioles which are the smallest airways in the lung. Lung tissue and airways scar and narrow, causing trouble with breathing. The scarring is irreversible and there is no cure of the constricted airways.

Ms. Gardner stressed the importance of being well informed of vaping’s health consequences and encouraged students to continue the dialog with their parents, teachers and fellow students.