risks of vaping and smoking

A new generation is getting hooked on nicotine, but not in the conventional way.

By: Kelechi Obasi

Not too long ago, smoking cigarettes in public would draw many frowns and disapproving looks from passers-by. The reasons for the public aversion to burning sticks of nicotine were the offensive odour and fear of inhalation of secondary smoke. Nowadays, although there is still a large army of smokers loyal to traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes are more widely used among young people. The global figure of users is staggering, with more than 2 million middle and high school children in the United States reporting using e-cigarettes in 2021.

It is the same story in Canada, where teens and young adults between 15 and 24 years of age are choosing vaping over smoking cigarettes. 20% of that demographic have previously smoked, while 15% said they had never smoked a cigarette. 

Many of those polled about their use of tobacco and e-cigarettes are students in grades 7 through 12. Twenty percent of them confessed that they had used e-cigarettes and that it was quite easy to get an e-cigarette without nicotine if they wanted one.

Three factors, according to medical experts, may make e-cigarettes particularly alluring to young people. First, a lot of teenagers think vaping is healthier than smoking. Second, compared to conventional cigarettes, e-cigarettes are less expensive per usage. Finally, e-cigarettes lessen part of the stigma associated with smoking since they don’t smell. Many also argue that there has been a reduction in the visible number of cigarette butts that once dotted every street and walkway, and that e-cigarettes play a part in cleaning up the environment.

Health experts are worried that people who would’ve never smoked otherwise, especially young people, are taking up the habit. There is often a link between starting up nicotine use and vaping. They warn that getting hooked on nicotine often leads to using traditional tobacco products down the road. Ominously, reports say disposable e-cigarette use has increased 1,000% among high school students and 400% among middle school students since 2019.

In 2006, electronic cigarettes, vape pens, and other non-disposable and disposable vaping tools were introduced into the market. These devices allow smokers to vape without burning tobacco, which may seem like an innocent substitute for tobacco products to many pilgrims seeking nicotine liberation when attempting to stop smoking completely. But is smoking electronic cigarettes, popularly known as vaping, healthier than using tobacco products? Research shows that vaping can be just as bad for you as smoking. Read on to find out more about vaping and its dangers.

E-Cigarettes Are Full of Hazardous Chemicals

The process of vaping involves inhaling an aerosol produced by heating nicotine (extracted from tobacco), flavourings, and other compounds in e-cigarettes. There are 7,000 compounds in regular tobacco cigarettes, many of which are harmful. Dr. Michael Blaha, M.D., M.P.H., head of clinical research at the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease, stated that “although we don’t know exactly what chemicals are in e-cigarettes, vaping exposes you to fewer hazardous substances than smoking regular cigarettes.”

The government of Canada agrees. On its website, it clearly states that switching from tobacco cigarettes to vaping will reduce your exposure to many toxic and cancer-causing chemicals, and that there are short-term general health improvements if you completely switch from smoking cigarettes to vaping products.

Although e-cigarette devices have gotten more fashionable and appear to be safer than they once were over the past 15 years, there has been an uptick in lung injuries and fatalities linked to vaping. The US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 2,807 cases of e-cigarette or vaping use-associated lung injury (EVALI) in February 2020, along with 68 deaths that were directly linked to the ailment. Since then, that figure has increased, mostly among those who change their vaping equipment or consume e-liquids altered on the illegal market. This is especially true for THC-containing vaping products.

Vitamin E acetate has been identified by the CDC as a substance that should be avoided by those who have EVALI. As a result, health experts have warned against the use of THC-containing e-cigarettes or vaping devices. They also admonish smokers switching to e-cigarettes to avoid obtaining a vaping device from unofficial sources including friends, family, or online sellers, and to never alter or add substances that the manufacturer did not intend for a vaping device.

Potential Health Risks

Nicotine is the main component of both traditional cigarettes and e-cigarettes and is a highly addictive substance. If you give in to the temptation, you develop a craving for cigarettes and experience withdrawal symptoms. Nicotine is a toxic substance that elevates your heart rate by raising your blood pressure and adrenaline levels, and studies have shown that  e-cigarette use can cause cardiovascular illness, as well as having fatal ties to chronic lung disease and asthma. 

New Look, Same Addiction 

Both conventional cigarettes and e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which, according to studies, may be just as addictive as cocaine and heroin. The worst part is that many e-cigarette users get even more nicotine from their devices than they would from a combustible tobacco product: to achieve a stronger nicotine dose, users can either purchase extra-strength cartridges with a higher nicotine content or increase the voltage of their e-cigarette.

Vaping Keeps You Vaping

E-cigarettes have not been approved as tools to help stop smoking, despite the fact that they have been wrongly advertised as a tool to help you kick the habit. According to a recent study, the majority of people who expected to use electronic cigarettes to break their nicotine addiction instead kept using both traditional and electronic cigarettes.

One key takeaway from all this is that any kind of nicotine can be addictive. According to Blaha, there is evidence showing that young people who start vaping are more likely to later use cigarettes and other tobacco products. He claims that by encouraging young people to become addicted to electronic cigarettes at a young age, we could be contributing to the next smoking epidemic. 

Interestingly, young people seem to be enjoying the thick swirl of smoke clouds and a pleasant whiff of the sometimes fruity or fresh odours that waft from the many e-cigarette oil flavours. Even passers-by seem to be more tolerant of the growing numbers of young people embracing vaping. The alarm bell that many are reluctant to wake up to is that the use of nicotine-laced goods, such as electronic cigarettes, can develop into an expensive and persistent habit, and young people might not stop there.