Clouding your mind

An in-depth look at the risks of vaping


Image courtesy of Creative Commons

Brooke Thornton, Editor-in-Chief

A puff of smoke rises over the stall door. “Let me try,” a voice whispers as the flash drive disguised device is passed from hand to hand, the nicotine-infused vapor invading the lungs of underage teens.

Ever since they were first introduced to the United States in 2007, electronic cigarettes have grown significantly in popularity, especially among teens with the introduction of the Juul, one of the most commonly used vaping devices. Vaping is a term that refers to the inhaling and exhaling of vapor that is produced by e-cigarettes or other products. It is a common misconception that e-cigarettes help people quit smoking and are safe to use, however there are several risks and negative effects of e-cigarettes that many people are not aware of.

One of the largest concerns related to vaping or juuling is the increasing addiction to nicotine and eventual transition to smoking regular cigarettes for teens who are under the legal age restriction of 18, or 21 in some areas. Juuls are the most typical form of vaping device among teens due to their disguised appearance made to look like a flash drive and enticing flavors such as mint or mango. However, a single Juul pod contains the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes, or roughly 20 cigarettes, and are highly addictive. Underage teens who participate in juuling or vaping are building up an addiction to nicotine due to the large amounts of nicotine contained in the devices that they are inhaling. This addiction also has been shown to lead to the smoking of actual cigarettes, even within underage teens.

Another concern related to the use of e-cigarettes is that it is extremely easy for teens to purchase a Juul or vape, even though they are underage. According to Truth Initiative, Juul sales increased by 641 percent between 2016 and 2017. By August, Juul accounted for up to 72 percent of e-cigarette sales. Many of these sales are made for teens or by teens. In April of 2018, Truth Initiative conducted a survey of 1,000 U.S. students between the ages of 12 and 17 to find out exactly how they are able to possess a Juul while underage. The youth surveyed were allowed to select multiple answers. The survey reported that 74 percent obtained a Juul from a physical location such as a retail store, which is against the law for a retailer to sell e-cigarettes of any kind to someone who is underage. 52 percent reported that they received Juul from a social source such as a family member or friend, and six percent reported they bought a Juul online. Among those that reported attempting an online purchase of a Juul product, 89 percent were successful in their transaction, proving how easy it is for those underage to obtain a Juul or other e-cigarette device, despite the laws and risks.

In addition to these concerns surrounding the growing vape epidemic, there are also many physical risks that teens do not realize. E-cigarettes and other vaping devices have been found to contain dangerous, lung-destroying chemicals. These devices can also trigger immune responses in your lungs which can lead to inflammatory lung diseases. The long-term effects of vaping are unknown, which is also a risk itself, but inhaled vapor has been known to inflame mouth cells and potentially lead to gum disease. Not only are these physical risks concerning, but the likeliness of transitioning to regular cigarettes can further the harmful effects the nicotine has on your body, especially in youth. The risks related to vaping, especially underage, can also affect your mental state in addition to your physical state. The largest mental risk is that nicotine can interfere with your memory and attention processing because the brain does not fully develop until the age of 25, thus proving to be increasingly harmful the younger someone is when taking part in vaping or juuling.

As the use of e-cigarettes becomes increasingly prominent in society, especially among underage teens, it becomes extremely normalized to see students juuling in the school bathroom or their cars, despite the many risks and concerns related to this epidemic. It is the responsibility of e-cigarette companies as well as schools and parents to be aware of these dangers and relay the information to users to decrease the amount of people participating in vaping and eliminate underage usage.