More than 40 percent of the U.S. adult population smoked cigarettes during their peak popularity between the 1920s and mid 1960s. Simple, portable and convenient, pre-rolled cigarettes proved a convenient way to indulge in nicotine.
The popularity of vaping follows similar trends and for many of the same reasons. Vaping devices, also known as e-cigarettes or e-vaporizers, are an evolved form of cigarettes which operate using battery power and aerosol. The “vapor” inside of the device typically contains nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals (although nicotine-free options exist). Much like cigarettes, this rechargeable or disposable device provides convenience and portability for its consumers. Despite our knowledge on the dangers of smoking, however, the long-term implications of vaping remain relatively unknown.
E-cigarettes became wildly popular in the U.S. in 2010 after a vigorous legal battle between the FDA and proponents of vaping devices. Vaping was marketed as a “safer alternative” to smoking cigarettes by their manufacturers, while the FDA expressed concerns over the lack of health warnings and excessive marketing towards children. After the dust settled from many months of court, the vaping industry walked away with a win and even hosted the first “VapeFest.”
Today, e-vaporizers maintain their popularity and are widely customizable. Disposable vapes may be purchased at any number of gas stations, and vape shops are peppered along numerous streets across the country. Despite attempts to regulate vaporizers, they are increasingly popular with teens. Vapes are the most common nicotine device among teenagers, with nearly 25% of high school seniors and 20% of 10th graders now vaping. Those numbers are expected to increase with the projected growth of the vape industry to $60 billion in the next five years.
Vaping Can Be Deadly
Being exposed to nicotine at such young ages increases teenagers’ susceptibility to addiction. Adolescents easily grow nicotine dependent and suffer additional side effects of increased impulsivity and mood disorders. Unfortunately, nicotine is only one of many harmful chemicals present in most vaping devices. We have very little research on the long-term effects of e-cigarettes, and many young adults do not consider the additional toll vapes may have on them beyond that of a nicotine addiction.
Excessive vaping can lead to serious health conditions, such as “popcorn lung,” or scarring of the tiny air sacs in the lungs which results in thicker and narrower airways. Doctors are still studying the relationship between routine vaping and other EVALI (e-cigarette or vaping use-associated lung injuries), but extensive vaping creates a strain on the heart and weakens the body’s cardiovascular system.
No matter your age, remaining nicotine free is your best bet to avoid the health conditions that can take years off your life. Talk to your kids about the dangers of vaping and keep the conversation going. If you find yourself or a loved one struggling, visit smokefree.gov or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for free help breaking away from the habit. CHI Memorial also offers smoking cessation programs through the American Lung Association. Call (423) 495-7778 to register for the free class.