An epidemic is spreading and it’s name, vaping. In 2018, the National Institute of Drug Abuse surveyed seniors in the United States to find out how many were involved or have been involved with vaping. From this survey, 37.3 percent of the surveyed students reported to have used some form of vaping device in the 30 days prior to the survey. Vaping has become a problem among teens in the US, but what really are the costs of vaping?

This past semester, Middle Park High School’s health teacher, Ms. Sordyl, tasked her freshman class with making anti vaping posters. This process included students researching the effects of vapes as well as statistics surrounding the dangers of vaping. Their task was to make a “Wanted” poster claiming that vaping is a dangerous villain. Some of the villains included “The Black Vapor” and “The Lung Killer.” I was able to talk to two freshman who were part of the project. They both said that after the project, “it was crazy to see how uninformed people are since it is such a big thing in America.” They said that the perspective Ms. Sordyl took on the subject was different than just telling them it was bad. The wanted posters were a fun and informative way to educate the students on the dangers of vaping. 

The first vape device was initially marketed in 1965. It consisted simply of a battery pack that was able to heat up tobacco flavor without causing combustion. This was seen as a healthier option and easier way to wean smokers off of cigarettes. It was advertised as simple, easy, and safe but there was so much more to it than that. 

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, vaping is the act of inhaling or “puffing” on a battery operated device that is using energy to turn a chemical into vapor. The modern vape of today was first developed in 2003 in China. It quickly made its way to the United States just a few years later. The device, called an e-cigarette, is compact, lightweight, inexpensive to produce and readily available. The vapor may contain nicotine (the addictive drug in tobacco), flavoring, and other chemicals. E-cigarettes can also be used with marijuana, hash oil, or other substances contrary to marketing campaigns advertising the modern vapes as strictly a nicotine device but there is extensive evidence and reports of other substances including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical that causes the high from marijuana are being ingested through the devices.

In 2008, the World’s Health Organization started campaigning against vaping, claiming that most e-cigarette companies were falsely advertising the chemicals in their products. At that time two major brands of vapes were surveyed, NJOY and Smoking Everywhere. The major chemicals found in these products were diethylene glycol, a chemical found in antifreeze and  carcinogens known to cause serious health problems and cancer.

Vaping is often called a “silent killer” because the person vaping is not usually able to feel it attacking their lungs. Currently the CDC is working with state and local health departments and the FDA to investigate the effects of vaping on the human body. A recent survey by the National Institutes of Health, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, found an alarming rise in the number of American teens who tried vaping last year. The study suggests that vaping may be driving an increase in nicotine use for teens.

Vaping may pose serious and avoidable health risks. Exposure to nicotine during youth can lead to addiction and cause long-term harm to brain development. The vapor can also contain toxins (including ones that cause cancer) and tiny particles that are harmful when inhaled.

More than 44,000 students took part in the 2018 annual survey of drug, alcohol, and cigarette use in 8th, 10th, and 12th graders. About 37% of 12th graders reported vaping in 2018, compared with 28% in 2017. Vaping of each substance that was asked about increased. This includes nicotine, flavored liquids, marijuana, and hash oil.

“Vaping is reversing hard-fought declines in the number of adolescents who use nicotine,” says Dr. Richard Miech, who led the study at the University of Michigan. “These results suggest that vaping is leading youth into nicotine use and nicotine addiction, not away from it.”

“Teens are clearly attracted to the marketable technology and flavorings seen in vaping devices,” explains Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse. “However, it is urgent that teens understand the possible effects of vaping on overall health, the development of the teen brain, and the potential for addiction.”