The dangers of electronic cigarettes

Katherine Merkel, News and Opinion editor

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Don’t vape, kids.

There are so many risks that accompany young adults and teens as they navigate through these formative years that authors write entire books on the subject, warning parents about and giving advice on how to best raise their child to avoid those risks. They warn about the dangers of drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana, taking drugs like cocaine or heroin, gambling, and smoking cigarettes. While these problems do remain relevant in teen life, there is a bigger problem that lurks in high school halls, not always known to parents, teachers, and even other kids to be a major problem. That problem is smoking e-cigarettes, or as it is more colloquially known: vaping. Vaping is one of the most, if not the most, prevalent and widespread issues that exists in teen life and culture today. An epidemic is quickly spreading right under the noses of many, and most don’t even realize it.

Easy use and the appealing design of the typical e-cigarette makes them enticing to teens and young adults. The most popular e-cigarette product on the market currently-the Juul- is cleverly disguised as a USB flash drive to avoid scrutiny from parents and teachers, and makes it easier to vape at school or at work. Vaping is typically done with ease considering the lack of noxious smoke that usually accompanies normal cigarettes. Companies that manufacture them make many different delicious flavors to appeal to their younger users. Some of the most popular flavors include mango, ice cream, strawberry, and caramel. With flavors that undoubtedly appeal to younger children, it is even easier to get them to try and enjoy the dangerous products.

Undoubtedly, the most dangerous consequence of vaping and smoking e-cigarettes is the rise of a new generation of nicotine-addicted adults. The main ingredient in the e-juice is nicotine. A highly addictive chemical, nicotine is used in traditional cigarettes but is even more prevalent in e-cigarettes, since the devices are meant to deliver on the appeal of the cigarettes but not have use of the more harmful chemicals. A typical e-cigarette would probably have nicotine levels amounting anywhere from six to thirty milligrams per milliliter, while the Juul-most popular among teens and high schoolers- has fifty-nine milligrams per milliliter of liquid. The company claims that one pod of e-juice is equivalent to a single pack of regular cigarettes in terms of nicotine, but the exact equivalency is difficult to measure. The health risks presented by nicotine have been known for some time, especially after the discovery surrounding why cigarettes were so addictive. Nicotine’s main target inside the human body is the brain, which it accesses via the bloodstream, and where it immediately goes to work once being inhaled by the user. Within just ten seconds, the nicotine reaches its destination- the brain. The chemical epinephrine-colloquially known as adrenaline- is released to cause a stimulation of the body which includes raising the heart rate, blood pressure, and glucose level of the person. Nicotine then activates the reward pathways in the brain, triggering the release of chemicals like dopamine- the messenger that conveys feelings of pleasure and intense happiness for the person. Usually, dopamine is released when a task is achieved or a goal is met, as a way to reward the body so that it continues to do tasks that will help the person to best survive. The problem with releasing dopamine when it is not needed is that it has the ability to actually rewire the neurological pathways in the brain that control how and when the chemical is released. A dopamine tolerance can then be built up so that it becomes more and more difficult to feel happy without whatever is stimulating the release of dopamine in the first place. Many people attempt the move towards e-cigarettes as an alternative to smoking, however, because of the comparable levels of nicotine in both products, those aiming to quit would most likely find themselves stuck in the vicious cycle of vaping. The reason why it is so difficult for smokers and those addicted to nicotine to quit is that their brains quite literally crave the chemical and without it, life becomes more difficult.

All things considered, it becomes clear that vaping is an issue that must be solved as soon as possible before the future generation gets hooked on vaping.


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