The e-cigarette has been touted by manufacturers as the safer electronic alternative to the cancer-causing cigarettes people have been smoking for many years. Now, the vaping trend has grown exponentially to include many young adults and teenagers. As the popularity has grown, so has concerns over the actual safety of this practice, including those in adolescent alcohol rehab centers that are worried vaping could evolve into more serious and dangerous drug use.
What is Vaping?
Vaping uses battery-powered devices known as vape pens to inhale a water vapor. The vape pen has a coil inside to heat the water and create the vapor, which is inhaled into the lungs and then blown out like a regular cigarette. The water is often flavored with “kid-friendly” selections like root beer and bubble gum. Many may contain nicotine and other substances as well. There is no regulation on the water vapors sold for the vape pens, which means consumers may not know everything in the solution that is going into their lungs.
Popularity of Vaping
Despite the many unknowns of vaping to date, use of these devices is soaring nationwide. According to data from the National Youth Tobacco Surveys sponsored by the FDA and CDC, e-cigarette use among high school students rose from 1.1 to 3.9 percent in 2014 alone. A survey found that more than 16 percent of 10th graders had vaped in the past 30 days versus seven percent that admitted to smoking cigarettes.
The perception that vaping is safe has also risen, with a University of Michigan study finding that just over 12 percent of 12th graders thought the practice was harmful. However, recent studies are finding that this perception may be very incorrect.
Risks Associated with Vaping
Researchers are discovering a number of risks associated with the vaping trend:
Nicotine Dangers – Many vaping liquids contain nicotine, the same addictive substance found in cigarettes. Researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis determined that nicotine in e-cigarette liquids caused lung inflammation in mice and even e-cigarette fluid without nicotine could cause a degree of inflammation.
Free Radical Damage – A scientist at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York found that e-cigarette vapors emit free radicals, environmental substances that damage cells in the body and affect immune function. Some free radicals accelerate the aging process while others increase the body’s risk for some types of diseases.
Immune System Compromised – Another researcher from the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System discovered that vaping can suppress immune system function, making it harder for the body to ward off some types of germs. Scientists from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health made similar conclusions from their studies on the connection between vaping and immune dysfunction.
Fear of the Unknown One of the biggest concerns surrounding the vaping trend is the fact that it is impossible to know precisely what an e-cigarette user is vaping. While the smells associated with traditional cigarettes and marijuana joints belied the substances inside, the water vapors for e-cigarettes can take on nearly any type of odor or no odor at all. This means users can place any type of substances, including illicit drugs, into their device without anyone knowing.
Barbara Carreno, a spokesperson for the DEA, told CNN last fall that social media is filled with posts from young users claiming to be vaping drugs right in their classrooms or bedrooms. In addition to vaping pot, users are finding that synthetic drugs like Spice and K2 can be vaped as well.
Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers is an adolescent alcohol rehab center that is concerned about the vaping trend among our youth on many different levels. If you would like more information on this trend, contact us today at 866-889-3665.