In a world where the old becomes new again and technology use is rampant, nicotine addictions are all the rage once again. With virtually unlimited products to use and flavors to choose from, use of e-cig products among college students and teenagers is growing exponentially. In this article, O will be exploring the risk factors of using e-cigs, as 2.5 million people in America do some experimenting with this as well. I will also acknowledge other nicotine vapor delivering products to help people make a decision that is safe for them and those around them.
Electronic cigarettes are battery powered devices that work when a user inhales from them, which heats and vaporizes the e-liquid, that usually contains nicotine, other chemicals, and flavorings. “The e-liquid is composed of a mixture of water, propylene glycol, glycerin, and flavorings with and without variable amounts of nicotine” (Lowe). E-cigs come in Vape pens, mods, Sourin air, cigarette-look a likes, JUULs, and even more. Unlike traditional cigarettes, the vapor that is produced from e-cigs smells good and comes in virtually any flavor imaginable.
Electronic cigarettes are promoted as an alternative to tobacco cigarettes.They were marketed to try and get adult smokers to quit. They are not supposed to mimic the visual of a cigarette, but more so the delivery of nicotine and the puff of vapor. There may be some benefits to switching from tobacco to e-cigs, but for the majority of college student, they were never traditional smokers; “Twelve percent of young adult e-cigarettes users reported never smoking traditional tobacco cigarettes.
In addition, these users frequently report that their e-cigarette use is not related to a cessation attempt” (Copeland). College students also report a high acceptance level of e-cig usage and a common understanding that e-cigs are not nearly as harmful as traditional cigarettes.
Research has also shown that there are positive expectancies with e-cigs, high ratings, and high acceptance rates of e-cig usage among college students. The perception of e-cigs among young adults continues with the trend that they have been getting more and more popular.
Much of the users don’t realize what is in their e-liquid besides nicotine; some juveniles don’t even know it contains addictive nicotine. Besides nicotine, they contain heavy metals (tin, nickel, lead), flavoring (which contains diacetyl- a chemical linked to lung diseases), harmful organic compounds (benzene, which is found in car exhaust), and other materials.
Nicotine exposure when the brain is developing (up to age 25) causes severe effects that last for a lifetime. Nicotine exposure causes a risk of mood disorders such as depression or anxiety, permanent lowering of impulse control, addiction, and a disruption of the way neural synapses are formed which effects the prefrontal cortex, dealing with attention, focus, and learning (Surgeon General). As memories are formed, synapses are also formed. This means there are stronger connections between brain cells being formed.
Using nicotine creates memories, which builds synapses, which primes the brain for addiction. This not only primes addiction for nicotine, but also other drugs such as cocaine. Developing brains also form synapses more than adult brains, priming teenagers and young adults to be more apt for addiction. Inhaling nicotine also increases heart rate and blood pressure, adding to the list of detrimental health effects never seen on teenagers before.
There have been instances of the lithium-ion battery exploding or creating fires. Since e-cigs are not regulated, there are no hazard warnings to their consumers or information from the company on how to prevent this. The electrolyte that is in the battery mimics gasoline. “So when these batteries short out, there’s a surge of heat that causes this flammable electrolyte to combust and explode” (Viswanathan). Combined with the battery acid that can catch fire easily, an explosion like this causes third-degree burns and usually warrants skin grafts. This injury combines a burn injury and a tissue blast.
Even though lithium ion batteries have a small chance of failing, since there are little regulations, companies may take shortcuts and not have proper safety testing. These batteries have been shown to explode when a user uses a different charger than the one it came with, over charges it, undercharges it, or the temperature of the device gets too cold or hot. Users need to take caution about this issue as there are rarely precursors to an explosion (Weisbaum).
Diacetyl, the chemical contained in most flavorings in e-liquid, is associated with Bronchiolitis Obliterans, formerly called popcorn lung, which is a rare lung disease.
This disease came to public knowledge when workers from popcorn plants developed this disease from the chemical diacetyl in the flavoring of microwave popcorn. This disease obstructs bronchioles in the lungs and is irreversible.
People suffering from the disease experience shortness of breath, feeling tired, dizziness, and wheezing. Diacetyl is currently approved by the FDA, but large amounts of inhalation are shown to be dangerous. Just recently e-cigs have started to be regulated. Severe cases require a lung transplant, and bronchiolitis obliterans may even redevelop with the transplant.
Propylene glycol and glycerol are the main components of e-liquids that create the viscosity. While they are not thought of to be harmful, when heated and vaporized with high wattage heaters, they can be transformed into toxic materials such as formaldehyde, which is a carcinogen (Surgeon General). High wattage vaporizers are more common now, as they produce vape that users like better.
There is also a potential household danger of e-cigs. Children and pets may accidentally inhale the e-liquid because of the attractive flavors (including cheesecake, bubblegum, mango, salted caramel), causing even younger and more influenceable brains to be affected.
Nicotine poisoning has increased significantly the past few years, and accidental ingestion of e-liquid has risen 1,500% in the past three years (Ross). Although less than cigarettes, there is still a concern about second-hand vapor. When a user exhales, the chemicals and nicotine comes out with the vapor. This increases the concentration of nicotine, heavy metals, potentially formaldehyde, and diacetyl into the air, all of which are harmful.
Whether someone chooses to use an electronic cigarette or not, there are chemicals in there just as there are with everything else. The harmfulness is decreased when compared to tobacco cigarettes, but not completely eliminated. This makes e-cigs a better option for someone trying to quit smoking, and to eventually stop, but a terrible idea for preteens and young adults to voluntarily start to develop a nicotine addiction.
Any time a user has a question about the risks of e-cig usage, they should visit the Surgeon General’s website and not something like vaping101. E-cigarettes are an emerging threat to our nation’s health and safety.
Where I got my info:
Weisbaum, H. (2016, March 8). What's Causing Some E-Cigarette Batteries to Explode? Retrieved April 16, 2018, from https://www.nbcnews.com/business/consumer/what-s-c...
Ross, J. (2016, July 08). E-cigarettes: Good news, bad news. Retrieved April 16, 2018, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/electronic-cigarettes-good-news-bad-news-2016072510010
Modesto-Lowe, V., & Alvarado, C. (2017). E-cigs . . . Are They Cool? Talking to Teens About E-Cigarettes. Clinical Pediatrics, 56(10), 947-952. doi:10.1177/0009922817705188
Know the Risks: E-cigarettes & Young People | U.S. Surgeon General's Report. (n.d.). Retrieved April 16, 2018, from https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/