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The Truth About Vaping

Vaping in Ossining Middle and high Schools

Graph of Ossining students who smoke cigarettes or vape between 2003 and 2019.

Cigarette Use is Going Down while Vaping Use is Going Up

The Vaping Epidemic

After intensive public awareness campaigns to combat decades of widespread cigarette smoking, cigarette use in the United States had dropped significantly, especially among teens and young adults. Unfortunately, a new nicotine delivery device has emerged: “e-cigarettes” or “vapes,” and their use is growing fast. In fact, there is a vaping epidemic, according to the American Heart Association, including among teenagers.

With the rate of teen vaping doubling in 2018 and an estimated 3,500 teens starting to vape every day, it is more important than ever to recognize that nicotine is addictive and dangerous, in any form, and vaping is no exception.

Inhaling superheated substances into your lungs is not safe, and that’s exactly what vaping is. Vaping does not create a harmless vapor. “Vape juice” is full of various other chemical components, including nicotine, flavoring compounds, preservatives, and stabilizers, all of which can cause lung damage and lead to other adverse health impacts throughout the body. While the short- and long-term effects of vaping aren’t yet certain, one thing is clear: there are significant health risks, and teens are especially susceptible.

What are Vapes?

E-cigs and vape devices work the same way: a battery provides power to a small electric heating elements, which quickly heats up a liquid past boiling so it vaporizes or aerosolizes (turns into microscopic droplets that become airborne), making it inhalable. Users breathe the superheated liquid into their lungs, where active components can enter the bloodstream.

Though they work the same way, vapes come in many different shapes and sizes. Many are even designed to look like other objects, such as pens, phones, flash drives, and watches.

SOURCE: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Vaping’s Rapid – But Limited – Spread

Vaping’s Shrewd Marketing
Vaping has been presented as a healthy alternative to cigarettes, even as evidence continues to grow that vaping is dangerous. Other marketing tactics used by vape manufacturers include celebrity endorsements and flavored “vape juices” were to be appealing to teens and young people. The latter, unfortunately, proved all too popular. Although some flavors attractive to teens and even children have been banned, vaping and vaping devices continue to be promoted by the industry with the result that use is on the uptick.

So why do people vape?
Some people have suggested that use of e-cigarettes by young people might “protect” them from using cigarettes. There is no evidence to support this claim. In fact, some studies show that non-smoking youth who use e-cigarettes are more likely to try conventional cigarettes in the future than non-smoking youth who do not use e-cigarettes.

Vaping and Nicotine Addiction
Both nicotine—the active chemical component in vaping and cigarette smoke—and the habit of vaping can be addictive. Nicotine stimulates the pleasure response in the brain, acting as a short-term stimulant. The brain quickly becomes used to higher levels of these “pleasure chemicals,” though, and each puff brings less pleasure. When this happens, users increasingly experience anxiety, irritability, and depression when they can’t get their nicotine fix. Nicotine is very powerful in this regard, and addiction can happen very quickly, making it difficult to quit vaping or smoking.

Make Vaping Vanish
If you or someone you know is addicted to nicotine or vaping, there are resources available to help. Armed with the right information, you can get nicotine, vaping, and cigarettes out of your life for good. Learn more at smokefree.gov, and look through our other resources below.

Vaping is NOT “Safe Smoking”

Vaping is still fairly new, and scientists are still working to determine the full extent of its health impacts. But research has already confirmed that vaping can have serious health and behavioral consequences.

We also know that the vapor inhaled from e-cigarettes and vape pens may contain chemicals like benzene, a highly volatile organic compound also found in car exhaust, and heavy metals like nickel, tin, and even lead. These can damage the lungs and the rest of the body, especially when inhaled in aerosolized and superheated form. Even the flavorings used to make vape juice taste good include ultrafine particles of diacetyl, which has long been linked to serious lung disease. And nicotine itself can directly damage the lungs, too.

The Truth About Vaping and Your Health

Nicotine is Brain-Altering

The nicotine molecule mimics several neurotransmitters—chemicals the brain uses to communicate between cells. One of these is acetylcholine, which stimulates overall brain activity. As nicotine exposure continues, the brain actually eliminates acetylcholine receptors, diminishing brain activity and requiring more and more nicotine to stimulate the brain. This can also lead to mood disorders and loss of impulse control. These changes can be permanent, and for a teen with a brain that’s still growing and developing, the results can be especially harmful.

Vaping is a Terrible Start

Nicotine also mimics dopamine, often called the “pleasure chemical.” Just as it does with acetylcholine receptors, the brain responds to overstimulation of dopamine receptors by eliminating some receptors and diminishing the effects of pleasurable activities. This is not only a major factor in nicotine addiction, but can lead people who vape or smoke to seek out other drugs and risky activities that deliver larger doses of dopamine or dopamine-like chemicals. This can lead to substance abuse disorders with other drugs, including cocaine.

EVALI: Vaping-Induced Lung Damage

Vaping doesn’t just affect the brain. In early 2020, a frightening new disorder was identified, referred to as E-cig/vaping associated lung injury, or EVALI. This condition shows up as sudden and severe lung damage, and can even be fatal. Informal, illegal, and homemade vape products seem to be the primary culprit, though information is still unclear. While researchers may have identified Vitamin E acetate as the primary culprit, no part of vaping is safe.

Other Impacts on the Body

The chemical impacts on the brain and the direct damage done to the lungs ought to be enough to turn people away from vaping and smoking. The risk of addiction—to nicotine and to other drugs—should also make people wary. But the ill effects don’t stop there. Nicotine can contribute to cardiovascular problems like high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. We’ve long known that smoking cigarettes can lead to mouth, throat, and lung cancer; and the data on vaping is still coming in, but it appears possible that similar cancers can develop from prolonged vaping. With the other problems we know vaping causes, why take the risk?

Vaping and COVID-19

There is also evidence that vaping and smoking—-inhaling any superheated vapor or smoke into the lungs—may worsen the effects of COVID-19, including in young people. Though there is still much to learn about this disease and the coronavirus that causes it, one of the reasons it may affect teens and young people less severely than older adults is that they simply have younger, more resilient lung tissue. Activities that damage and prematurely age the lungs, including smoking and vaping, leave young people more susceptible to more severe symptoms.

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