What is Vaping?
Vaping is done using devices called electronic cigarettes (e-cigs), vaporizers, vapor pens or other devices. These are all battery-operated devices that deliver nicotine and flavorings without burning tobacco. In most e-cigarettes, puffing activates the battery-powered heating device, which vaporizes the liquid in the cartridge. The resulting vapor is then inhaled (called “vaping”).
In theory, it is a step-down system for individuals looking to quit smoking. However, vaping has become a trend among high schoolers as a way to smoke substances discretely, as the vapor released has little to no smell or visible smoke. If the substance being smoked has a flavoring, sometimes there will be a sweet smell that remains in the air.
What is inside these devices?
The short answer is- it’s hard to know!
While some of these devices contain only flavored vapor liquid (allowing a user to taste flavor and release ‘clouds’, simulating smoking), some devices contain nicotine or marijuana.
Vapor produced in these devices can come from an e-liquid, concentrate (such as wax), or dry herb. Some devices come with these substances already inside, while others require some work on the part of the user to fill them. Some devices have the ability to be modified to smoke marijuana, while their original intent was only flavoring or nicotine delivery.
It is important to note that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just announced in 2016 that they would begin oversight of this industry. Up until this point, companies could use any chemicals they want in vapor pens, in unknown quantities. It is currently unknown how much oversight the FDA has dedicated to established or growing companies.
Chemicals that have been found in devices include:
- Diacetyl - causes an IRREVERSIBLE lung disease called Obliterative bronchiolitis. This disease causes permanent shortness of breath and dry cough. Diacetyl was found in 39 of 51 vapes recently tested
- Diethylene glycol, an ingredient used in antifreeze
- Acrolein — a severe eye and respiratory irritant
- Propylene glycol
(Both Propylene Glycol and Glycerin are used to make artificial smoke, though little is known about whether it’s safe to heat and inhale them)
- No oversight from FDA regarding what the flavoring is made from in terms of chemicals
- Attractive to teenagers
- Hundreds of flavors including vanilla, fruit punch, maple, mint, etc.
- Leave a subtle, sweet smell in the air
In any form, nicotine is a highly addictive drug.
Like other drugs, nicotine increases levels of a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine is released normally when you experience something pleasurable like good food, your favorite activity, or spending time with people you care about. When a person uses tobacco products, the release of dopamine causes similar effects. This effect wears off quickly, causing people who smoke to get the urge to light up again for more of that good feeling, which can lead to addiction.
Side Effects of Nicotine:
Common Side Effects Include:
Sudden change in tastes
Acid or sour stomach
Hiccups or belching
Throat sores or mouth sores, blisters, or irritation
Upset stomach, nausea or vomiting
Mouth, tooth, jaw, or neck pain
Problems with teeth
Unusual tiredness or weakness
Severe Side Effects (see a doctor) include:
Fast or uneven heartbeat
Severe rash or swelling
Effect of Nicotine on the Heart:
The real danger in nicotine is in the effects it has on your health, especially in large amounts and over time.
Nicotine raises your blood pressure, which further increases your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
The stimulant effect that nicotine gives you is responsible for that slight “buzz” feeling, which can be pleasurable in the sense of boosting your energy, but it also causes your heart to beat harder and faster. When your heart beats harder and faster on an everyday basis, eventually it causes your blood pressure to go up. High blood pressure isn’t just a harmless state, either: it’s a sign that your heart has to work too hard just to perform the daily functions it needs to do to keep you alive. Nicotine also negatively impacts your blood sugar, which is especially dangerous for individuals with diabetes.
Negative Lung Effects of Nicotine
Smoking causes your airways to swell up and tighten, which makes it harder for air to get through your lungs.
Over time, these risks to your lungs can add up to developing serious chronic lung diseases, including Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), emphysema, and even lung cancer.
Preoccupation with Smoking
Nicotine is so powerfully psychologically and physically addictive that you’re always thinking about when you can have your next puff, even if you just had one. This causes a lot of anxiety for smokers! Stress and smoking seems to be a vicious cycle, because most smokers say that it relieves their stress to have a cigarette, but smoking another one keeps the cycle in motion.
Today’s marijuana is 70% stronger than in previous decades. A popular phrase from teenagers is, ‘weed isn’t addictive.’ This is WRONG. Marijuana IS addictive. In fact, more teens are in treatment with a primary diagnosis of marijuana dependence than for all other illicit drugs combined (including alcohol and prescription drugs).
Vapor pens can use dry herb, cannabis oil or wax (“dabs”). With all forms, it is unknown what amount of THC you will be getting with each puff of the vapor pen. The latter two forms add an increased risk of having unknown chemicals in them as well.
What’s the Big Deal?
It’s ILLEGAL! It’s ADDICTIVE! It can impact a user’s future health but symptoms may not be immediately apparent.
- As of November 1, 2017, it is illegal to sell e-cigarettes, hookah tobacco, or cigars in person or online to anyone under age 21.
- Buyers have to show their photo ID to purchase e-cigarettes, hookah tobacco, or cigars, verifying that they are 18 years or older.
- These products cannot be sold in vending machines (unless in an adult-only facility).
- It is illegal to hand out free samples.
- It affects a teenager’s brain, which is not fully developed until age 25
What do Vapes Look Like?
E-cigarettes, vapor pens, and other nicotine and marijuana delivery systems come in a variety of styles. Many times, they are sleek and can fit in the palm of your hand. Other times, they are produced in fun colors and styles (See previous page for link to commonly used vapor pens).