Vaping: An epidemic with American teens

What is vaping? That’s a question that has been asked by a lot of adults recently thanks to the increasing popularity of vaping.  The craze is especially popular with high schoolers and in general, young adults. Yet, as reflected by the recent news of deaths caused by vaping and also general concern from the medical community on how safe it is, its popularity is worrisome.

Vaping, according to the Center on Addiction, is “the act of inhaling and exhaling the aerosol, often referred to as vapor, which is produced by an e-cigarette or similar device.” The name itself was coined because the e-cigarettes used in vaping don’t generate smoke, but instead aerosol. 

The aerosol generated is typically confused with water vapor, but it is not that. The difference between the two is that the aerosol produced from vaping contains fine particles, which can contain toxic materials. What is in those particles depends on the brand and pod (the things inserted into a vaping device that are heated up to produce the aerosol) of the vape being consumed, but in general, most of the toxic materials found in them so far have been linked to cancer as well as respiratory failure and heart disease.

Although it may seem like it, vaping is nothing new. The first vape products were actually released back in 2007, but their popularity has increased exponentially in the past few years. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the amount of adult vaping has increased from 7 million in 2011, to about 41 million in 2018. The vape industry is now worth $19.3 billion dollars, with the United States, United Kingdom and France the highest consumers of the product. Combined, people in the three countries spend roughly $10 billion vaping.

While an exact figure on how many teens vape is unknown, what is known is that vaping is most popular with teens thanks to the different flavors vapes come in. Notably, vape pods come in a wide variety of fruity flavors, something highly attractive to teens, and something that has drawn the ire of critics. 

Keeping in mind the fruity flavors are marketed to attract to the teens, President Donald Trump announced earlier this year his desire that flavored vape pods would be banned in the US. Heavier legislation is also coming in to control the vaping industry, which has largely been untouched due to how different it is from most other products in the market, and how small of an impact it has had up until now. Already in Michigan, for example, flavored e-cigarettes have been banned following reports of 33 vape-related deaths, along with 1,350 illnesses from it.

As for how safe vaping and e-cigarettes are in general, there is still not enough data. In the deaths and illnesses reported so far, a common link has been established with THC (a chemical found in marijuana that gives it its effects) that has caused the health issues. Beyond that, however, things such as the long term effects or how other ingredients affect the body are still unknown. For now, people are better off avoiding vaping altogether.