Youth vaping epidemic takes a toll on students

Nicotine in vapes causes young teens to fall into the downward spiral of addiction


Vapes, E-cigarettes, juuls, all nicotine filled harmful substances to the teen body. More and more teenagers are finding themselves becoming addicted. Nicotine dependence and addiction is a serious matter that most teens are not aware of until it becomes too late. According to the CDC, there has been a total of 2,807 hospitalized cases or deaths relating to teens’ use of e-cigarettes or vaping products. An e-cigarette is a term for an electronic cigarette.
The purpose of an electronic cigarette is to give cigarette smokers an alternative of nicotine rather than tobacco. They heat a liquid and producaerosol meant for inhalation. The e-cigarettes come in different sizes, some look similar to everyday items such as usb flash drives or pens.
There are many different names that are used to refer to e-cigarettes. Such as e-cigs, e-hookah, juuls, vapes, and more. E-cigarette companies knowingly target teens to make money. They purposefully introduce appeasing flavors such as cotton candy and gummy bear.
“I truly believe that vaping is a gateway for people to start smoking cigarettes,” IB Business teacher Howard Dwyer said. “Eventually leading to picking up even worse habits. I used to have a sign that said when you find out what’s in a vape you will not be relieved and I wholeheartedly agree.”
It is against the law for anyone under the age of 18 to purchase any tobacco product including e-cigarettes. The reason for this being that nicotine is a highly addictive substance, and it is not healthy for young children to become addicted. Addiction is a disease that takes a very long time to cure, it may take years of withdrawals and therapy to begin the process of getting better.
Nicotine rewires the brain’s circuits making you crave it more and more until you are dependent on it. It increases the dopamine levels (the neurotransmitter in your brain which determines how we feel pleasure). Since a teenage brain is not yet fully developed, nicotine can cause a number of negative effects. It may slow brain development, especially parts of the brain responsible for attention, memory, and learning. This can affect a student’s work ethic.
“Vaping and the use of e-cigarettes involves inhaling heated nicotine, oils, and other potentially harmful chemicals and substances into the lungs. These substances are thought to cause inflammation (redness and swelling) in the lungs. Other substances commonly found in e-liquids can cause damage to the lungs. Formaldehyde is one toxic substance that can cause lung disease. People with lung disease have difficulty breathing and they can be more prone to respiratory illnesses like pneumonia,” school nurse Lekeithia Wilkes said.
Lung injury is quite common due to the inhalation of vaping products. Rapid onset coughing, difficulties with breathing, weight loss, vomiting, are just some of the many different physical consequences of vaping. Besides the physical effects of smoking these nicotine filled substances, there are severe emotional effects as well. Nicotine in vaping devices puts teens at risk for long term mental health disorders. It can worsen feelings of depression, anxiety, and more.
“A 2019 study found that vaping is associated with higher levels of ADHD symptoms, mood and anxiety disorders and depressive symptoms are all associated with e-cigarette use “ Wilkes said.
A JUUL is a specific brand of e-cigarettes that is shaped like a flash drive. It’s popularly known among teens and is powered by a battery. This battery heats up the nicotine creating the aerosol. Aerosol is a substance enclosed under pressure and able to be released as a fine spray, typically by means of a propellant gas. About 60 percent of JUUL users ages 15-24 admit to not being aware of JUULS containing nicotine. A CDC study has recently revealed that 99% of e-cigarettes sold have contained nicotine. News outlets have reported the use of JUULS by students in a school environment. Places such as classrooms, bathrooms, sporting events, and even hallways.
A common misconception among teenagers is that vaping is simply water vapor, or water in gas form which is harmless. This is very wrong, vaping and e-cigarettes ingredients include water, nicotine, flavorings, and a propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin base (or sometimes a mixture of PG and VG). VG stands for vegetable glycerin which is a thick sweet liquid that produces the vapor. It also includes heavy metals such as nikle, tin, and lead.