There is a growing epidemic in our community and country involving teen e-cigarette use and vaping. Currently, over 17.5 million Americans vape and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) has reported 2,000 cases of serious injuries related to vaping. 79% of those injured are under the age of 35 and 23 is the median age of those injured.
E-cigarette and vaping use affects the prefrontal cortex of the brain. This part of our brain is responsible for decision making, planning of actions and consequences, problem-solving, and impulse control.
What Are E-Cigarettes and Vape Pens?
E-cigarettes are electronic devices containing a nicotine-based liquid. They are composed of four parts:
- A cartridge containing nicotine juice and any flavoring;
- An atomizer that turns the liquid to vapor;
- A battery to run the atomizer; and
- An LED light for appearance purposes to make it look like a cigarette.
No smoke is burned with e-cigarettes, so smoke is not actually produced. E-cigarettes have evolved so much because they are modern and attract young users who are looking for modern and cool ways to smoke.
Juul is an e-cigarette brand that is currently leading the market. Their sleek and modern design looks nothing like a traditional cigarette. Juul has become so popular that the makers of Marlboro Cigarettes have invested $12.8 billion in Juul Labs – 35% of the company. Juul is composed of two parts:
- A power source that contains a battery that can be charged through a USB port; and
- A cartridge, or sometimes referred to as a pod, containing e-juice.
A Juul cartridge can reportedly provide up to 200 puffs. They come in a variety of different flavored e-juices with an alarming amount of nicotine. When the cartridge is plugged into a power source, the e-juice is heated and produces vapor, which is then inhaled into the user’s lungs.
What Are E-Cigarette and Vape Users Inhaling?
E-cigarette and vape users are inhaling primarily nicotine, and a host of other harmful toxins. Nicotine is the same thing found in tobacco products. Nicotine is a drug, a stimulant, highly addictive, and causes changes in brain chemistry. Although tobacco is not actually contained in the e-cigarettes, they contain nicotine salts that are derived directly from tobacco plants. Some of the other toxins contained in e-cigarettes are the same toxins found in antifreeze, nail polish remover, paint, pesticides, embalming fluid, and fireworks.
When inhaled, the nicotine enters the brain after passing through the lungs. It then attaches to pleasure receptors in the brain and causes a release of pleasure chemicals – such as dopamine. This provides the user with a temporary feeling of pleasure. Nicotine becomes addictive when the pleasure centers in the brain create a memory of nicotine and an appetite for it. Other risks of vaping include lung damage, chronic bronchitis, pneumonia, increased risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer, decreased immunity, exposure to metal particles from vape smoke, such as tin, nickel, iron, aluminum, silicate, and chromium, injury from explosions, and “popcorn lung.” “Popcorn lung” is a serious and irreversible lung disease that can damage the smallest airways in your lungs, resulting in coughing and shortness of breath. Despite these serious health problems, e-cigarettes are almost completely unregulated on a federal level. There are no federal age limits for purchasing e-cigarette devices.
E-Cigarettes, Vaping, and Their Impact Among our Youth
Since their introduction in 2007, E-cigarette usage has doubled among middle and high school students. According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey, vaping by high school and middle school students has increased more than 77% since 2017. A 2014 CDC survey revealed that e-cigarettes are the most frequently used tobacco product, more so than traditional, combustible cigarettes.
These e-cigarette and vaping devices are difficult to detect because they look similar to computer flash drives, which are common in school settings. They can even be charged using a laptop.
Signs and Symptoms of E-Cigarettes Vaping?
- Psychological distress and lack of impulse control – such as – irritability, anger, impatience, and anxiety
- Difficulty concentrating
- Change in hunger and eating patterns or weight gain
- Increased craving for tobacco/nicotine
- Sudden interest in burning scented candles or incense
What Can We Do?
We as a community can do the following things to combat this serious health epidemic:
- Educate yourselves – conduct research and attend a presentation to learn about what is really going on
- Talk with your teens, and teens, talk with your friends. Be aware of social media ads
- Direct people to online resources to educate themselves
- Look for teachable moments – real-life instances of vaping and its danger
- Talk about problems family and friends have had with smoking/vaping addiction
- Practice with your teen how to turn down an offer to vape
- Have a text code your teen can send you if they need to escape a vaping situation
- Most importantly, pay attention. Look for changes in your teens or friends
If you have questions about an e-cigarette case please talk to an attorney today, like a personal injury lawyer in Las Vegas, NV, today.
Thanks to Eglet Adams, for the information on vaping and the dangers it presents.