Vaping…. It’s A Safe Alternative. Is It Really?

To this day, our understanding on nicotine addiction and its effects on teens is based on our understanding on utilization of tobacco cigarettes, which is measurable. However, when it comes to vaping, we don’t know howmuch nicotine is being delivered. Vaping has become ubiquitous in many high schools throughout the UnitedStates and accepted as a ‘safe’ alternative to classical cigarettes. Unfortunately, that isn’t true. Vape-addicted teenagers have shown to develop seizures, psychiatric symptoms, and many other issues rarely seen with cigarettes.

Before I go into why vaping is a serious hazard, one must first understand what these electronic cigarettes are. As of 2014, there are more than 460 e-cigarette brands worldwide and there has been a net growth of 10.5 e- cigarettes brands per month.

The Anatomy of a Vape Pen

The anatomy of a vape pod or as they are known Juul’s, pod mods, mini vapes, sub-ohms, vape pens, e-hookahs, tank systems, electronic cigarettes/e-cigarettes or electronic nicotine delivery systems is quite simple. They are available in pre-filled or refillable designs. Some have power buttons but often they tend to be automatic, meaning you just take a “drag” on them to make vapor.

The above are but a few examples of device, engineered for users. One such example, and very popular amongst users are JUULs. The vape pod, or a JUUL pod, has two components: the top part, which is the e-liquid cartridge that one sticks into the device and the bottom part, which includes the battery and temperature regulation system, The cartridge is also the mouthpiece, so you just click it into the JUUL and you’re ready to go. The JUUL device is rechargeable and comes with a USB charger that one can pop into a charging block or even a laptop. The e-liquid cartridges, or JUUL pods, come in a variety of flavors like cool mint, or fruit medley, and each cartridge contains about as much nicotine as one pack of cigarettes. These pods contain a mix of glycerol and propylene glycol, nicotine, benzoic acid, and flavorants and of course, nicotine. The nicotine content is 0.7mL (or 59 mg/mL) per pod, which is approximately equivalent to one pack of cigarettes, or 200 puffs. The JUUL, for example, is a “closed system,” meaning the user doesn’t refill the e-liquid like they would with a “tank systems,” or vape

pens. Generally, the JUUL device costs roughly between $35 to $50 and a package of four JUUL pods costs $15.99.At $4 a pod, that’s a bargain compared to a pack of cigarettes, which after years of hard-fought legislation and additional taxes to cover the health effects of smoking now can cost more than $10 a pack.

Since the JUUL is discreet and looks like a flash drive, it is easy for teens to hide at school or home. There have been reports of students in the back of the classroom inhaling it and blowing it on the floor, and it’s gone. Or smokers will “ghost it,” meaning swallow the smoke so it disappears.

Vaping Side Effects

So is vaping really a safe alternative to utilize to quit smoking? That is something each one of you will need to decide after doing your own research.

Vaping is causing seizures. The FDA identified at least 35 cases, especially amongst young users, between 2010 and 2019. The cause may be related to excessive nicotine intake, as one key side effect of nicotine poisoning is seizures.

Recently, studies have shown that adolescents who regularly used such methods tend to have higher levels of nicotine in their bodies than have previously been found in adolescents who regularly smoked conventional cigarettes. These high levels may explain why youngsters are seizing. Even so, the consequences of addictive habits are well-known amongst drug users.

Usage of vape pens is also leading to addiction with drugs and alcohol.

A recent pediatric study surveyed 808 high school students in three Connecticut schools yearly for three years between 2013 and 2015. The researchers asked the students if they used e-cigarettes or tobacco cigarettes in the last month. During the first year, 8.9% of students used a vape pen and 4.8% of students smoked cigarettes in the last month. Unfortunately, those who used e-cigarettes were seven times more likely to smoke cigarettes by the second survey, 1 year from the first, and almost four times more likely by the third survey, 2 years from the first. During the third year of this study, about 14.5 students had used a vape pen in the previous month, and 8.5 had students smoked cigarettes.

Several other studies have shown that vaping amongst youth and young adults is strongly linked to the use of other tobacco products, such as regular cigarettes, cigars, hookah, and smokeless tobacco. Even so, others have suggested that e-cigarette use is linked to alcohol use and other substance use, such as marijuana, especially since of these products can be used to deliver it.

Despite it serving as a gateway drug, nicotine levels in the blood are significantly higher in regular utilizers of vape pens. The high levels of nicotine in the blood also damages the developing brain from reaching its maximum potential and may be exhibited as memory & attention impairment. Because the part of the brain that’s responsible for decision making and impulse control is not yet fully developed during adolescence, young people are more likely to take risks with their health and safety. These risks include nicotine addiction, mood disorders, and permanent lowering of impulse control. Nicotine also changes the way synapses are formed, which can harm the parts of the brain that control attention and learning.

In addition, the vaping liquid themselves exhibit chemicals, as mentioned previously, whose effects, are well known, individually, but the long-term effects of vaping these e-liquids — a solution of propylene glycol, vegetable glycerine, flavors and nicotine or hash oils – are still not known. The liquids can contain potentially harmful chemicals, including, of course, nicotine; ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs; flavoring such diacetyl, a chemical linked to a serious lung disease; volatile organic compounds such as benzene, which is found in car exhaust; and heavy metals, such as nickel, tin, and lead. Another risk to consider involves defective e-cigarette batteries that have been known to cause fires and explosions, some of which have resulted in serious injuries. Luckily, most of these explosions happened when the e-cigarette batteries were being charged.

Vaping & Pregnancy

Indeed, a 2018 study found that the marketing of e-cigarettes has led women to believe they’re safer to use, evenin pregnancy, but since the amount of nicotine consumed in cigarette smoking is similar to the amount of nicotine consumed with e-cigarettes, is it really safe?

The risks, this study and others point out, include potential damage to a developing fetus’ brain and lungs, anincreased risk for low birth weight, withdrawal from nicotine, and an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Conclusion

So is vaping, use of e-cigarettes, vape pens, tank-systems sub-ohms, whatever you want to call it, a safe alternative to quit cigarettes? That is for you to decide. For me, it’s just another potential means to deliver yet another drug for the masses to consume so that the profiteers may continue to profit.

Resources

Know the Risks: E-cigarettes & Young People | U.s. Surgeon General’s Report https://e- cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/

Government Of Canada Health Canada – https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/smoking- tobacco/vaping.html?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc_en&utm_content=generic_4&utm_campaign=vapin gprevention2019&utm_term=vape

Vaping Pods Produce High Nicotine Levels in Young Users Douglas Lowy- Nci- Nci – https://www.cancer.gov/news- events/cancer-currents-blog/2018/youth-vaping-high-nicotine-levels

Juul Alternatives (that Don’t Suck) https://vaping.com/blog/guides/juul-alternatives-that-dont-suck/
The Different Types Of Vapes You Need To Know https://vaping360.com/vaping-101/different-types-of-vapes/

Journal References:

Tory R. Spindle, Edward J. Cone, Nicolas J. Schlienz, John M. Mitchell, George E. Bigelow, Ronald Flegel, Eugene Hayes, Ryan Vandrey. Acute Effects of Smoked and Vaporized Cannabis in Healthy Adults Who Infrequently Use Cannabis. JAMA Network Open, 2018; 1 (7): e184841 DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.4841

Morean, Meghan E., et al. “Predictors of Adult E-Cigarette Users Vaporizing Cannabis Using E-Cigarettes and Vape-Pens.” Substance Use & Misuse, vol. 52, no. 8, 2017, pp. 974–981., doi:10.1080/10826084.2016.1268162.

Grant JE, Lust K, Fridberg DJ, King AC, Chamberlain SR. E-cigarette use (vaping) is associated with illicit drug use, mental health problems, and impulsivity in university students. Ann Clin Psychiatry. 2019 Feb;31(1):27-35. PubMed PMID: 30699215; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6420081.

Whittington JR, Simmons PM, Phillips AM, Gammill SK, Cen R, Magann EF, Cardenas VM. The Use of Electronic Cigarettes in Pregnancy: A Review of the Literature. Obstet Gynecol Surv. 2018 Sep;73(9):544-549. doi: 10.1097/OGX.0000000000000595. Review. PubMed PMID: 30265741