TIPS TO LIVE BY

What I've Learned About Vaping

Nov. 7, 2019

By Brittany Little

The first time I ever heard of vaping was my senior year of high school. My friends and I walked to the gas station down the street from our school to get something to eat before Colorguard practice. My best friend pointed out a colorful poster on the gas station window for a new type of cigarette — an e-cigarette or vape pen. The poster outlined all the benefits of this new e-cigarette: How it was a safe alternative to smoking, and how it could even help people quit smoking. Also listed on the poster were all the flavors you could put in the e-cig, like strawberry, watermelon and even gummy bear. These flavors made the product seem comparable to gum, soda or anything else we would pick up at the gas station or grocery store.

Six years later, I see vaping everywhere. I see people vaping in their cars while I’m driving. I see it when I’m walking around my college campus. I even see people vaping when I’m grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s. I have friends and family who have switched from smoking to vaping because they heard how much safer it is, or because they prefer the taste to cigarettes. It doesn’t stink up the house or their clothes. 

If you watched TV before we could fast-forward through commercials, you may remember the Truth anti-smoking campaign. These campaign ads exposed the health and social implications of smoking, and were credited with preventing more than 300,000 teens and young adults from smoking. In fact, the percentage of teens smoking has dropped from 23% in 2000 to 5% in 2019. The popularity and intense marketing of vaping is putting those gains at risk. 

Just as we did with cigarettes, we are quickly learning that vaping is not as safe as it was originally portrayed. To date, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has linked vaping to 33 deaths in the U.S. 

Thinking back to that vaping poster at the gas station, I remember it said that vape pens are safer because they don’t contain nicotine. Yet recently, I was surprised to learn that most e-cig fluid does contain nicotine, just like regular cigarettes. Nicotine has a higher dependence level than heroin, cocaine or alcohol, so just like cigarettes, vaping is addictive and hard to quit. 

There are some e-cigs without nicotine, but they still contain the harmful chemicals that are linked to health issues. Experts still don’t know the true extent of the effects the chemicals in e-cigs — with or without nicotine — have on our health. This uncertainty adds to the risk of vaping, and the rewards (if any) do not outweigh the risk.

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month — please don’t get caught in all the smoke around vaping. If you don’t vape, don’t start. If you currently are vaping, there are programs that can help you kick the habit. There’s just too many unknowns about the long-term health consequences. Don’t let shiny ads or gimmicky flavors trick you into risking your health and your future. Don’t buy into the hype: It’s time we did our homework on vaping. 

 
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