Walking through campus it is not uncommon to see fellow students or even faculty exhaling large white clouds. In the past five years the tobacco industry has seen an explosion in the use of portable e-cigarette vaporizers, especially by American youth.
In the past, e-cigarettes were typically purchased at drug stores or gas stations, but following the eruption of e-cigarette users, vape shops can be found in every state in the U.S. The rise of vaping has created its own culture with users congregating at conventions just to discuss vape juice flavors, new battery technologies and even contests to see who can blow the biggest clouds.
The new vaporizers are far more discreet than conventional cigarettes or hookahs, but are these futuristic devices really a safer alternative?
Some family physicians suggest that the use of e-cigarettes in young people might protect them from using conventional cigarettes. A 2016 report from the Surgeon General said that there is no evidence to support this claim. The same report said, “Some studies show that non-smoking youth who use e-cigarettes are more likely to try conventional cigarettes in the future than non-smoking youth who do not use e-cigarettes.”
Christopher Seitz, an assistant professor at Appalachian State who holds a doctorate in public health, said that “Depending on the study, anywhere from 17 to 50 percent of family physicians think that people who smoke should switch to e-cigarettes. I disagree because it is not FDA approved. People compare cigarettes to e-cigarettes. You can’t do that. They are different animals.”
As we continue to see a rise in the use of e-cigarettes, manufacturing companies should be more responsible towards informing the youth and other users just what exactly they are putting into their bodies.
“There has not been enough longitudinal studies done on these devices, but if you are looking at what is in it then time will tell the harmful truth about this product,” Sietz said.
The Surgeon General has felt the need to analyze these products to inform the public on what exactly they are putting into their bodies, and the results are disturbing. Not only do e-cigarettes provide easy access to the highly addictive drug nicotine, but the government-funded study found “ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs flavorings such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung disease, volatile organic compounds and heavy metals, such as nickel, tin and lead.”
There are more than just health issues that come with these devices, but serious hardware issues as well. According to a 2017 FDA article titled “Tips to Help Avoid ‘Vape’ Battery Explosions” the larger box mod vaporizers use lithium batteries and a cotton ball to hold the juice. When the cotton becomes too dry it can ignite the lithium batteries and cause an explosion.
“Of the times it does explode, it’s bad … Most of the time it’s second or third degree burns that tend to need skin grafting, and if it explodes in your mouth it’s knocking out teeth and shrapnel getting in people’s eyeballs,” Seitz said.
What started as an attempt to create a healthier alternative to smoking has seemingly done the opposite for the American youth. In fact, Sietz said that vaporizers are like a gateway to conventional cigarettes.
According to the Surgeon General, more high schoolers are using e-cigarettes than adults. If addiction has already taken hold of a friend or loved one, it is best to offer support and inform them to safer, FDA-approved nicotine alternatives such as nicotine patches or gum.
It is important that we treat e-cigarettes with the same caution as conventional cigarettes, especially as these devices continue to run rampantly through our schools.
Nate Fordyce is a freshman communications major from Chicago, Illinois
Photo by: Caroline Moss, Staff Photographer