Micaela Turner, Staff Writer
With more than 3.6 billion individuals currently vaping, young adults and children have sparked a new epidemic in the United States. Although vaping was first thought to be a step down from smoking, many still have developed lung-related issues from it According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of September 11, 2019, there were 380 confirmed and probable cases of lung disease associated with e-cigarette product use, or vaping, reported by 36 states.
All e-cigarettes contain chemicals that do not occur naturally in the human body and can cause symptoms of dry throat, inflammation of the mouth and more. These side effects can develop into more severe health issues such as lung issues, heart disease and cancer. Nicotine, a highly addictive chemical, is a main component found in all e-cigarettes.
“We cannot allow a whole new generation to become addicted to nicotine,” said former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD. Nicotine is also known to stop brain development in young children, according to tobaccofreeca.com. Since the brain doesn’t reach full maturity until age 25, the chemical can affect the memory, attention and learning parts of the brain.
The e-liquids also contain two other substances, propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin also known as PG/VG, two chemicals used to vaporize the other chemicals and create a theatrical smoke, which is mistaken for water vapor by many. The mixture of PG, VG, nicotine and other chemical additives in vaping liquids are heated between or around metal or ceramic coils to create a flavored aerosol smoke. Propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin can be found in your daily cleaning products like air fresheners, but they have been shown to have little to no harmful effects when inhaled by themselves or when mixed with water.
According to Surgeon General Jerome Adams, young people say they’ve tried these devices primarily “because they have flavors in them.” Popular vaping companies like JUUL Labs, it seems, have targeted children with flavors like mango to make their products seem safe to try. The effects of nicotine, PG and VG on the human body are known; however, many e-cigarrette companies, such as Blu or JUUL, use proprietary blends containing unknown and possibly carcinogenic chemical additives. While vaping has been presented as a safer alternative, the reality is less black and white.
Even though vaping seems safe to try, harmful chemicals can lead to many health risks in the future. Dr. Stephen Baldassarri of Yale Medicine suggests explaining the addictive nature of vaping, which would affect the one thing teens crave the most: independence. “In some ways, when you get addicted to a drug, it’s like losing your freedom of choice,” he warns. “The risk of losing that freedom might be a persuasive message for kids.”