Vaping Epidemic: Know the Risks

Vaping Awareness Campaign 2019 by the Lighthouse Treatment Center

Vaping AddictionAs of October 2019, the number of people across the United States affected by a vaping-related lung illness has reached 1,479 with 33 deaths and the numbers are growing every single day. Until now, health officials have not pinned down what exactly is causing the mysterious illness.

The national outbreak that has reached every state in the U.S. except Alaska has raised serious concerns about vaping especially now that vaping has become more popular than ever. More than 3.6 million Americans vape and what’s alarming is that so many teens and young adults make up that number. In 2018 alone, there was a 78% increase in the number of teens who engage in vaping compared to the past year. While the number of vape users is continuously rising, many people are still not well informed about the risks associated with this habit.

The Lighthouse Treatment Center recognizes the importance of relaying critical information about vaping in order to educate the community better about its potential dangers. Below are some helpful answers to commonly asked questions about vaping.

You can also DOWNLOAD OUR VAPING FACT SHEET HERE.

What is Vaping?

Vaping AwarenessVaping is the act of inhaling vapors using an electronic device such as a vape pen or e-cigarette. A vaping device consists of a heating component that warms up a liquid cartridge, which will then release the vapor being inhaled.

Vaping devices and e-cigarettes were patented in the 1960’s but did not come into circulation until the 2000’s.  Vaping has continued to grow since then, but a recent upsurge has surpassed conventional tobacco products.

Vaping was promoted as an alternative to tobacco smoking, with many advertisements convincing smokers to make the switch. However, not many people realize that unless a product specifies that it is nicotine-free, at least 99% of the vaping products in the market contain nicotine. A 2018 Truth Initiative study revealed that 63% of JUUL users, the most popular vaping product to date, did not know that the popular vape product always contains nicotine. Even if it has a fruity or candy flavor, it will still have nicotine in it.

Vaping is also now being used to vape drugs and other narcotics. Marijuana, DMT, bath salts, liquid THC, and hash oil are just some of the drugs that are being vaped. Synthetic marijuana (Spice and K2) are highly popular among teenagers who vape.

What does a vaping device look like?

Vaping devices are battery powered with a heating component to warm up the liquid cartridge in order to release the vapors. These can come in different forms and designs.

Vape pen – as the name suggests, this looks like a writing pen and is discreet and stylish. Some designs are resembling ballpoint pens or highlighters for students.

Tobacco style – this cylindrical vape device is often referred to as an e-cigarette as it mimics the look of a real tobacco cigarette.

Slim Stick Style – this is the design used by JUUL, which is by far the most popular vaping device at the moment controlling 70% of the vaping market. It resembles a USB flash drive making it easy to hide. The popularity of the JUUL device led to users coining the term “juuling” to refer to vaping using the said product.

Is vaping safer than smoking cigarettes?

Vaping Negative EffectsAlthough the use of electronic nicotine delivery systems or e-vaporizers, such as e-cigarettes, e-pipes, e-hookahs, and e-cigars has been endorsed as a safer alternative to conventional cigarettes; opposing views exist in the literature about the innocuousness and aftereffects of vaping.

On one side of the argument, practitioners and policy makers insist that the use of e-cigarettes utilizes the harm minimization strategy of addiction to reduce harmful effects of conventional cigarettes.

The other side pledges that, even though there are lower levels of carcinogens than conventional cigarettes, vaping exposes users to other toxins that lead to cardiovascular risks and lung disease.

Moreover, just because vaping may seem like a safer choice does not mean that it is 100% safe. While this may be true for tobacco smokers who have been addicted to smoking for several years, so many vape users are young people who have never smoked cigarettes before.

Why do people especially teenagers prefer vaping?

  • Easier to hide from parents and in school
  • No typical tobacco smell or taste as it can come in fruity and candy-like flavors.
  • Peer Pressure
  • Less conspicuous when used to smoke drugs

What are the risks associated with vaping?

Lung Disease

According to the American Lung Association, electronic cigarettes contain toxins and carcinogens that expose users to harmful effects.  Numerous studies also point to adverse effects of vaping that include lung damage, reduced immune responses in the lungs, and inflammatory oral disease and irritations.

Poses potential brain damage especially to teens

The brain of a teenager is still developing; therefore, any exposure to nicotine can be very risky. This can harm the brain and could cause attention and learning problems.

Gateway to drug use

Vaping can act as a gateway for people to use other more harmful drugs. There have been more reports of vape pens being found to contain other narcotics.

Addiction

Just like cigarette smoking, the act of vaping can be habit-forming. This can lead to an addictive behavior. According to short-term data, vaping poses the risk of nicotine addiction as well as initiation of tobacco cigarette use. If vaping devices are used to vape other narcotics, this can result in drug addiction.

Unknown long-term effects

Reports of long-term effects of vaping are inconsistent and inconclusive. What this means is that the health impact of vaping for an extended period is still unclear.

CDC Warning against THC Vaping

Stop VapingThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC issued a warning against vaping THC products. The CDC has found that the majority of the patients affected with the lung illness acquired their pre-filled THC vape products off the streets.

THC vape products are different from nicotine products because instead of nicotine, they contain THC, which is the psychoactive component found in marijuana. However, black market THC vape products that are not sourced from legal dispensaries are unregulated and may contain other chemicals or no THC at all.

An independent testing by NBC news revealed that ten black market THC vape products contained a pesticide that can transform into hydrogen cyanide when burned. Hydrogen cyanide exposure can be rapidly fatal and has been used in chemical warfare and prison executions.

While the use of THC vaping products have been found to be a common denominator among patients, officials haven’t ruled out vaping products containing nicotine as a possible cause.

How to quit vaping?

The Lighthouse Treatment Center is responding to the rise in vaping among treatment residents and local community members by providing information on vaping health risks, evidenced-based prevention and cessation treatment options and treatment of addictive lifestyle behaviors to Lighthouse Treatment clients and the Anaheim Unified School District.

If you would like to learn more about how to quit vaping, contact Lighthouse Treatment Center today.

READ MORE FROM OUR BLOGS

THC Vape Warning Amidst Lung Disease Outbreak

Is Vaping Addictive?

Vape Victims: How The Juuling Epidemic Is Affecting Teens In America

Vape Pen: How Teens Are Using This Device To Smoke Drugs

References:

Abrams, D. B. (2018). Harm minimization and tobacco control:  Reframing Societal Views of Nicotine Use to Rapidly Save Lives.  Annual Review of Public Health.  39, 193-213.

American Lung Association. (2019, August 20). E-cigarettes.   Retrieved from https://www.lung.org/stop-smoking/smoking-facts/e-cigarettes-and-lung-health.html

Glantz S. A & Bareham D. W. (2018).  E-Cigarettes: use, effects on smoking, risks, and policy implications.  Annual Review of Public Health, 39(1), 215-235.

Hess C. A., Olmeda P., Navas-Acien A., Goessler W., Cohen J. E., Rule A. N. (2017) E-cigarettes as a source of toxic and potentially carcinogenic metals.  Environmental Research, 152, 221.  Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2016.09.026

Lohmann R.C. (2018). The Vaping Trend. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/teen-angst/201804/the-vaping-trend