By Smriti Nair ('22)
Vaping is a commonly known word these days, as the infamous action has been whispered into the ears from parents to children alike. The new ‘trend’ became popular around 2010, and while vaping may be considered a relatively new convention, it has become recently popular among teens. More and more teens are choosing to vape over smoking normal cigarettes. The hold e-cigarettes and vaping has on teens is due to a multitude of reasons such as peer pressure, reduced cost, and less prominent health concerns.
The perception of reduced health risks and the cost are simply why teens choose to keep vaping, but peer pressure is the main reason why teens begin vaping in the first place. The pressure to fit in with their group of friends pushes them to vape, and when the nicotine addiction occurs it is difficult to stop. Even if the teen does not want to fall into vaping, he or she may still wish to portray a certain image.
School Nurse Mrs. Donna Moreen said, “Kids are affected by peer pressure for a lot of substances because during adolescence, the decision-making is in the frontal lobe of the brain and that section is not fully developed until you are 25 years old. This causes teens to make bad decisions, be more impulsive, and therefore more susceptible to peer pressure.”
E-cigarettes vary in both size and cost, but a 30 milliliter cartridge usually sells between the range of $15-20. Each milliliter of vapor gives the smoker around 6 milligrams of nicotine. On the other hand, the median price of a normal cigarette is $6.38 in the United States and the average amount of nicotine found in one cigarette is around 1.9 milligrams. It would take a large amount of time for an e- cigarette smoker to recoup their initial investment, unlike a normal cigarette smoker who will need to keep buying more and more packs.
Most e-cigarette smokers are teens, and cost is a large factor in teens deciding to smoke e-cigarettes instead of normal cigarettes. The one thing that the average teen does not have is money, so the less an e-cigarette costs, the higher the probability of teenagers having the means to purchase them.
While the cost of both types of cigarettes are different, there is an ongoing debate that says that the health risks differ as well. Though e-cigarettes do have health concerns due to the nicotine and other chemicals that are being inhaled, many scientists say that e-cigarettes are around 80% less dangerous than a normal cigarette.
The science behind this number is that cigarette smoking kills around half a million people per year, and the harm comes from the numerous amounts of chemicals that are burned and inhaled in the smoke. Teens, throughout their school years, have learned that smoking is terrible to the body and diseases, such as cancer, can result from it.
Nurse Moreen noted that this has been drilled into the minds of students for so long, that they themselves have no interest in actually smoking because they have learned about negative effects. Not much information has come to light about vaping and the topic is not covered thoroughly in schools.
She said, “Still a lot of students don’t know, and people don’t know exactly what is in vapes. They still believe it is just flavored water. I think it would be a good idea to talk about vaping in schools, even just a small section in the curriculum, will let students know that there are harmful chemicals in vaping like lead, formaldehyde.”
Proponents say that while e-cigarettes do contain harmful chemicals, because they are not burned, people are not as exposed to the toxins.
However, now, studies are showing that teenagers in college are developing a respiratory disease called bronchiolitis obliterans, colloquially named “Popcorn Lung,” due to vaping in their teens. Popcorn Lung is a condition that damages the small airways in the lungs, making a person cough and wheeze. It is also being found that vaping has become a gateway to smoking.
“Teens who have never smoked a cigarette are three to four times more likely to start smoking in the future if they use e-cigarettes” says Dr. Taylor Hays, director of the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center.
The so-called reduced health concerns are one reason why more teens are moving towards vaping, not smoking. What teenagers may not understand is that there may be multiple dangerous side effects that have not yet been found.
Vaping is affecting teens and the perceived lower health risks, reduced costs, and need to fit in, is pulling in more and more teens by the day.