Vaping: an epidemic among teenagers

We need to stop this habit before it becomes the new norm.

Myka Fromm, Opinions Writer

Hawaiian Pog, Blue Voodoo, Unicorn Milk, Shurb. No, these are not Lil Pump’s former stage names. These are some of the most popular flavors for e-cigarettes that have swept across the country. And the worst part is, they’re taking over high schools too.

Vaping is more common than one might think. In fact, about 28 percent of American 12th graders admitted to using an e-cigarette in the past year, according to a survey by Monitoring the Future 2017.

One reason for this trend is a growing perception that vaping is “cool.” “I think it’s just another stupid thing that high schoolers are doing now because it’s ‘cool,’” said an anonymous sophomore at RM. This student started vaping in October 2017 and said, “A lot of people had them and my friends and I thought they were cool, so someone who was 18 that we knew bought them for us.” For this student, the idea of doing something cool trumped the potential risks.

Even worse, middle schoolers are using e-cigarettes too. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimated that 9.5 percent of 8th graders vape and that number is only growing.

This breakout of teen use can be largely attributed to the amount of related advertising to which students are exposed. The NIDA stated that seven out of ten teens see e-cigarette ads, whether they are online, in magazines, or on TV. “When I was in middle school, I would’ve been scared to death if I saw someone vaping in the bathroom. Now my 12-year-old cousin is telling me how his friends have Juuls [the most popular type of e-cigarette],” the anonymous student said. This nightmare is rapidly becoming a reality.

The trend of using an addictive, dangerous substance to look “cool” has occurred in previous decades with cigarettes. For years, teenagers had been getting hooked on addictive chemicals like nicotine, which can interfere with brain development. The brain continues to grow until the age of 25, so for those years, addiction can have an especially harsh impact on cognitive ability and mental health.

The cost of vape products can also be an issue. According to CNBC, a four-pack of Juul pods costs $15.99 and a device itself costs $34.99. “You really don’t realize what you’re doing to yourself and how much money it ends up costing when you first get one,” the student said. She admitted that she now goes through one pod every day, which has the equivalent amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. That accumulates to over $1400 of her own money in a year.

Many believe that vaping is safer than smoking because it lacks the lung-clogging carcinogens found in cigarettes. That said, e-cigarettes are such a recent innovation that their potentially harmful effects are still being discovered. For example, some recent studies have shown that vaping cinnamon can make it difficult for the lungs to clear out mucus. The CDC warns that regardless of whether vaping is a healthy way to quit smoking, no one should start vaping if they are not already using nicotine products.

Even if e-cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes, we as the public have no reason to believe they are safe. We should not treat them as if they were harmless. Smoking does not have that same “cool” factor anymore because our society stigmatized it and underscored how deadly it can be. We cannot mess around with e-cigarettes, and we cannot mess around with addiction. We need to stop this habit before it becomes the new norm.

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