Science Friday: Escaping Vaping: Why it’s time to put down the JUUL 

0
0


Marketed as “less harmful” alternatives to traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes on a whole have not been proven effective in weaning people off of cigarettes.  Photo by Ruslan Alekso / Pexels

Marketed as “less harmful” alternatives to traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes on a whole have not been proven effective in weaning people off of cigarettes. Photo by Ruslan Alekso / Pexels

Vaping is not as innocent a practice as people like to believe. In the last month, the incidence of lung illness in people who use nicotine or cannabis vaping products has increased over twofold. Just the past week, a woman in Kansas became the sixth person to die of vaping-related respiratory issues in the United States.  

Despite their increasingly prominent use in today’s society, vaping products lack sufficient regulation and research. Considering the plethora of well-known health complications that accompany traditional smoking products such as cigarettes and pipes, it is alarming how little is known about their contemporary counterparts. Now, some of the dangerous effects of vaping are manifesting themselves. It would be wise to put an end to the use of vaping tools such as e-cigarettes before more people get hooked and get hurt.  

Although e-cigarettes do not contain the same levels of toxic chemicals found in traditional cigarettes, they are far from safe. The term “vaping” is actually misleading, since e-cigarettes deliver their contents via an aerosol, not vapor. Aerosols contain cancer-causing toxins. Furthermore, there is no required standard for labeling e-cigarettes, so there is no sure way to know the levels of nicotine and other hazardous chemicals that may be present.  

Marketed as “less harmful” alternatives to traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes on a whole have not been proven effective in weaning people off of cigarettes. The majority of people who begin using vaping tools to curb their smoking addiction instead become regular users of both traditional and e-cigarettes. FDA-approved smoking cessation products, such as nicotine patches and gums, are much safer and more beneficial for those looking to quit smoking.  

In fact, it has even been shown that vaping encourages instead of deters smoking. Adults who begin vaping without any other history of smoking are four times more likely to start smoking traditional cigarettes than those who do not vape.  

Despite the success of public health initiatives to reduce smoking across America, e-cigarettes are undermining these efforts by giving a new generation of Americans a nicotine addiction. According to a 2015 study, 40 percent of youth aged 18 to 24 who use e-cigarettes were not regular smokers before they began vaping. Attracted by flavors such as mango and mint, many young people begin using e-cigarettes such as JUULs under the impression that they are safer than traditional cigarettes, and many have not even made the connection between vaping and cigarettes. For this reason, new legislation is being proposed to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes.   

Over 65 percent of teenagers believe that the contents of e-cigarettes are “just flavoring”. However, JUULs and other e-cigarettes are highly successful at delivering nicotine and are therefore very addictive, with one JUUL pod containing as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. The nicotine salts found in JUULs are engineered to reduce irritation and absorb quickly into the blood, making it easier for users to take in large amounts of nicotine over short periods of time. 

In addition to the nicotine contained in e-cigarettes, other known and unknown dangers are lurking in the e-liquids, aerosol form and flavorings of these devices. Chemicals known to cause respiratory infections have been discovered in the e-liquids of e-cigarettes. The “just flavoring” found in JUULs and other vaping products has been linked to increased cell death, especially when mixing flavors.  

Other harmful side effects of vaping are probable but have yet to be discovered, given the relative novelty of these products. The modernity of e-cigarettes means that there is not enough data on the consequences of their usage to adequately assess their status as a health risk. Rather than generating this data from more cases of vaping-induced complications, it would be a better idea for society to retire the e-cigarette for good. 


Veronica Eskander is a contributor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at veronica.eskander@uconn.edu.

Leave a Reply