All over the country, the “vaping” trend is exploding. What started as a method of smoking cessation, has become a cultural phenomenon. Vaping supply stores are popping up all over the United States. There are vaping expos, where vape manufacturers can showcase their products. There are even vape competitions, and participants (many sponsored by vape companies) attempt to produce the largest “clouds” (vapor emitted from inhaling off the vape). Many people have made the switch from cigarettes to “vapes”, but are these nicotine replacement devices doing more harm than good?
“Vape” is actually the slang term for electronic cigarettes, personal vaporizers, or electronic nicotine delivery systems that were initially developed as a method for administering nicotine without the harmful effects of tobacco cigarettes. These “vapes” heat an e-liquid (usually containing a mix of propylene glycol, glycerin, water, nicotine, and flavorings), which produces a vapor that is inhaled by the user. One major benefit to these products is that they eliminate the harsh, lingering scent of cigarettes, and presumably eliminate some of the toxins and chemicals in rolled cigarettes. However, their spread in popularity and recreational use has led to some unexpected consequences.
These “vaping” products have become increasingly popular among teenagers. The 2014 edition of Monitoring the Future revealed that ~17% of 12th graders and ~16% of 10th graders reported using e-cigarettes within the previous year. A study released by Leventhal et al (2015) revealed that in a large sample of high school students, those that used e-cigarette products were much more likely than nonusers to progress to cigarette smoking within the following year. It is clear that the culture surrounding vaping is glamorizing nicotine use, and adolescents are attracted to this image and the freedom involved in vaping.
Vaping Other Substances
Increasing concern among law enforcement and public health officials stems from reports that these products are also increasingly being used to ingest marijuana-related compounds, flakka, and other new synthetic drugs. Further, given the freedom of using these products in many public places, people are able to use illicit drugs via these products right out in the open. There is also some evidence to suggest that nicotine exposure might increase susceptibility to use of other drugs later in life (see Levine et al., 2011). Essentially, while these products may be helping some quit smoking, they may also be encouraging or increasing rates of illicit drugs.
Are E-Cigarettes Doing More Harm than Good?
Given that these products are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), much is still unknown about possible health risks. There is no way for consumers or even retailers to know what is really in the liquid nicotine products. While they are undoubtedly less toxic than combustible cigarettes, there are still carcinogenic and harmful ingredients in many vaping liquids, prompting the American Lung Association to urge the FDA to develop regulation and oversight of these products. Further, while these products were initially permitted to be used in a majority of indoor establishments, including restaurants and music venues, the spike in popularity combined with increasing public official concerns has resulted in the banning of their use in many indoor (and even some outdoor) establishments all across the country. Further research will need to be done to determine the safety of these products, and certainly regulation by the FDA would go a long way towards ensuring that at the very least, people know what they are consuming.
If you or someone you know is using e-cigarette products to consume illegal drugs, and think you may have a problem, contact the professionals at Serenity Acres today- help is available.
- Aquilina, K. (2015, April 05). Flakka: Designer Drug Sweeping the Nation, Easily Concealed in E-cigarettes, Causing Worry for Parents with Teens. HNGN. Retrieved from http://www.hngn.com/articles/82606/20150405/flakka-designer-drug-sweeping-nation-easily-concealed-e-cigarettes-causing.htm
- DeJesus, I. (2014, February 12). E-cigarettes: Officials alarmed by reports that kids use them to inhale drugs. The Patriot-News. Retrieved from http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2014/02/e-cigarettes_drug_use_pennsylv.html
- Ganim, S. and Zamost, S. (2015, September 05). Vaping: The latest scourge in drug abuse. CNN. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/04/us/vaping-abuse/
- Leventhal, A. M., Strong, D. R., Kirkpatrick, M. G., Unger, J. B., Sussman, S., Riggs, N. R., … & Audrain-McGovern, J. (2015). Association of electronic cigarette use with initiation of combustible tobacco product smoking in early adolescence. JAMA, 314(7), 700-707.
- Levine, A., Huang, Y., Drisaldi, B., Griffin, E. A., Pollak, D. D., Xu, S., … & Kandel, E. R. (2011). Molecular mechanism for a gateway drug: epigenetic changes initiated by nicotine prime gene expression by cocaine. Science translational medicine, 3(107), 107ra109-107ra109.