Categories
Addiction Smoking

E-Cigarettes: Harmless? We Think Not

It turns out those some of those fancy electronic cigarettes are being used to deliver something more sinister than nicotine. The “e-cigs” I’m referring to are called “Trippy Sticks” or “iVapor” by those who alter their purpose. This is the latest trend: taking hash oil (or any intoxicant that can be gelled or liquefied) and injecting it into electronic cigarettes or “portable herbal vaporizers.” These “vape pens” as they are called, have no smell, no smoke, and their true contents are virtually undetectable.  Based on e-cigarette technology, users have found a way to inject hash oil into these devices in order to evaporate high levels of THC without having to burn it.  Unless the e-cigarette is tested, no one would ever know it contains something other than nicotine.

E-Cigarettes were introduced in the US market in 2007. They were initially marketed as an innocuous solution to help smokers stop smoking tobacco. They don’t, however, curb the addiction to nicotine. Rather than getting one’s nicotine from the tobacco in cigarettes, e-cigarettes deliver it through a smoke-free nicotine vapor. And because e-cigs don’t necessarily contain tobacco, they are not subjected to the same tobacco laws—at least, not yet. There aren’t any age restrictions when it comes to purchasing the devices, particularly if you are buying online. Flavored and unflavored e-cigarettes are marketed in a fun, intriguing way, luring in the young and impressionable, and selling themselves to consumers as “harmless.” In fact, non-smoking teens will often smoke the flavored, nicotine-free e-cigarettes, which primes them to eventually smoke the real thing. Some parents may be fooled into thinking that their kids aren’t actually “smoking” and buy the e-cigarettes in an attempt to take preventative action.

 

As we wait for scientists to study the negative effects of e-cigarettes, I am afraid that the fast-paced drug culture has already opened the door for their misuse. It’s troubling that these “Trippy Sticks” are undetectable and that their use is spreading like wild fire. More disturbing is how little research has been done at this point. Warnings haven’t been released, no major upsets have taken place, and no one is in the hospital. Yet. As is often the case, our kids see using something they see as harmless and fun, without considering the possible consequences.

 

E-cigarettes are NOT a safe solution to a bad habit. They are not harmless. They are not something to be encouraged or ignored. With technology everywhere, our teens have easy access to any information, good and bad, but so do we! As parents, it’s the sinister side we have to pay attention to. Technology is how our current and future generations communicate, share, create, and thrive. We have a responsibility to investigate the unknown, ask our own questions, and come out of the dark. Being a Luddite is no longer an excuse for “not knowing” or not understanding our kids; what we don’t know has the power to alienate us and make us disengaged parents. Investigate technology, be in the know, be transparent, ask questions, show real interest in your kids and their lives, and create and hold boundaries. Trippy Sticks are just another fish in the pond of designer drugs, and one way we can nip the new drugs in the bud is if we make them less interesting.

Categories
Addiction Adolescence Smoking

Smoking: Not So Cool Anymore

Smoking Alone… (Photo credit: Dr. Jaus)

When I was growing up, smoking was emblematic of the Outsiders or James Dean or the Marlboro man. It was a symbol of “cool,” or of being a rebel or a badass. I grew up with tobacco ads emblazoned upon billboards across Los Angeles and littering the pages of magazines. What could possibly be wrong with smoking if it looked so cool, right? Wrong. Did you know that the three men who held the role of the Marlboro Man eventually died of lung cancer, and the infamous brand ended up with the nickname “Cowboy Killers“?  Still, it wasn’t until 1999 that smoking billboards were ultimately replaced with anti-smoking ads, despite efforts toward the prohibition of tobacco advertising building for years.

Finally, in 2009, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act went into effect. The Act requires placement of new warnings and labels on tobacco packaging and in tobacco ads; its ultimate goal is to deter minors and young adults from using tobacco products. Tobacco companies are also required to seek FDA approval for new products. But why am I talking legal Acts and advertising,  or reminiscing about the Marlboro Man? Because statistics gathered from a recent are showing us that teens are, in fact, finally smoking less! The full results of the survey done by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health can be found here.  However, I’ll give you a brief window into what the results showed. Perhaps those terrifying, graphic warnings are finally starting to work.

According to this study:

  • 1 in 11 (8.7 percent) adolescents smoked cigarettes in the past month.
  • Rates of adolescent past month cigarette use ranged from 5.9 percent in Utah to 13.5 percent in Wyoming
  • 10 States with the highest rates of past month cigarette use among adolescents, 4 were in the Midwest (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Ohio)
  • Of the States with the lowest rates of past month cigarette use among adolescents, 5 were in the West (California, Hawaii, Nevada, Utah, and Washington)

Teen perceptions of the danger of smoking are increasing:  2 in every 3 adolescents recognize that smoking is dangerous. This is a good thing. It would appear that smoking is no longer seen as cool. If anything, smoking has been relegated to outside locations, where smokers are allowed to smoke in small, outdoor spaces, which are a specified distance away from any doors. Smoking in this day and age would really just be a pain in the rear. The recent laws and views toward smoking have made it really a challenge for those who want to indulge. At this point, why bother?

Categories
Addiction Smoking

Hookahs: Exotic and Toxic

In part 3 of this series, we’ll be discussing one of the oldest smoking fads: the Hookah. (Click to read Part 1 and Part 2)

The hookah dates back to the 15th century, at which time its use was revered as one of prestige amongst the upper classes. According to some sources, the hookah was invented in India by Hakim Abu’l-Fath Gīlānī, a physician, who created this system to allow smoke to be passed through water so it could be “purified.” This is still a popular perception today, with many people smoking hookahs indiscriminately, assuming the “particles” from the tobacco are being filtered out.

The hookah, in its ornate beauty, allures the young, creating an illusion of social grandiosity. It might even have a glamorous, exotic appeal: the smoke is sweet, as they are often flavored with things like cherry and vanilla, and the hookahs themselves are often quite beautiful. What a wonderful metaphor, reminding us the outsides don’t always match the insides: the hookah experience may look and even taste good, but the damage it causes is deeply embedded in its smoky tendrils.

Partaking in a session of hookah smoking is often assumed to be less harmful than smoking cigarettes, but in reality, it’s not. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Hookah smokers may actually inhale more tobacco smoke than cigarette smokers because of the large volume of smoke they inhale in one smoking session, which can last as long as 60 minutes.” (I cough just thinking about this!) Hookahs come with their own set of risks, though, some of which include:

  • High levels of toxic compounds, including tar, carbon monoxide, heavy metals and carcinogens;
  • Exposure to more carbon monoxide than cigarette smokers;
  • Hookah smoking is linked to lung and oral cancers, heart disease and other serious illnesses;
  • Hookah smoking delivers about the same amount of nicotine as cigarette smoking does, possibly leading to tobacco addiction.

So before you cozy up in the hookah lounge, attempting to have an exotic experience with friends, think again. There are much better things to do with your time, like taking the opportunity to indulge in some fabulous Indian food instead. Save the smoky allure for the history books.

Articles of interest:

CDC Fact Sheet

Putting the Crimp in Hookah