by Carli Johansen
It’s safer than cigarettes.
That’s the argument that will coax more teens to vape than any other. This argument bypasses the objections that years of anti-smoking videos, the ‘D.A.R.E’ campaign and ‘The Truth’ promotions sparked in our minds as children.
We fear cigarettes, any illusion of popularity or health they tried to sell was overshadowed by that fear.
Enter electronic cigarettes- the modern cigarette. The ‘mods’ that are used to vape are rechargeable and produce an aerosol or vapor instead of smoke.
These ‘mods’ come in different flavors, and with less toxins than their predecessors. So teens are drawn to their safer image, not realizing the trap they are falling into.
Consequently, teens don’t fear e-cigarettes.
“[Teens] don’t have enough respect for it,” said Valerie, a past vape user. “They don’t put enough negative feelings behind it.”
Mods still contain significant amounts of nicotine, a highly addictive substance. Often up to 20 times more of it than in cigarette
Initially, the purpose for e-cigarettes and vaping was an honorable one. It was marketed as a method used to quit smoking. It wasn’t good for you, the companies that produced them never tried to argue otherwise, but it was the definite lesser of two evils.
The ‘safer’ image vapes portrayed didn’t just pull in smokers, it exposed teens to its world too.
Several students at NS have fallen victim to this, including two individuals, Chase and Valerie. They started due to the influence of friends, unaware of the harm the little metal stick held.
“Everyone’s saying, ‘Don’t do drugs,’ but no one is saying don’t vape,” Chase said.
Chase began vaping at the age of 13. While at school, a friend offered him a puff. Soon after, Chase became a regular consumer. He didn’t pay any mind to the effect vaping had on him.
“I didn’t feel like it was affecting me at all. I was just brainless,” Chase said.
Chase continued to vape for years, until a research project in school shed light on the truth behind the social factor e-cigarettes held.
“Now I’ve studied and done research, and I realize that I was harming my body,” Chase said.
Vaping put stress and obstacles in every factor of his life. It put noticeable strain on his family and social life, and his physical and mental health. And while he has noticed improvements in these areas since quitting, vaping still seeks to wreak havoc on his body and mind.
“Lately I’ve been fainting a lot—I get blackouts a lot,” Chase said. “I went to the doctor and he said, ‘You got a little bit of this in you.’”
However, while his history with e-cigarettes still affects him, Chase has noticed the positive direction his life has taken since.
“Vaping affects your brain—you can’t think right. I was a straight F person, and now since I haven’t done it I’m a straight A person,” Chase said.
Valerie started due to a similar situation. Towards the end of last school year, she found herself with a new group of friends.
“I had lost a lot of friends last year; I was starting to find my place,” Valerie said.
Valerie had always been curious about vaping, so when her new friend group presented an opportunity to try it, she took it.
She was drawn in by the aesthetic of the vapes: the smell, the look and the popularity.
“They look so cool; they smell really good, there is cool clouds,” Valerie said.
Like Chase, she was unaware of its effect at first.
“I didn’t [regret it] for a long time, but it was really hard to stop,” Valerie said. “I just wanted it; I always had it.”
Valerie quit vaping last November. Looking back on it, she realized it wasn’t as socially progressive as she originally thought.
“It didn’t get me anywhere, but it distanced me from friends I did have previously,” Valerie said. “I wish that I would have not liked it when I tried it.”
Derek’s experience with vaping is very different from Chase’s and Valerie’s. His reason for starting was for vaping’s original purpose of recovering from cigarette addiction.
Derek first began vaping at the age of 14, he hoped that vaping would help him get over his addiction to cigarettes.
“Before I started vaping I smoked quite a bit. I smoked easily a pack or two a day,” Derek said. “And then I started vaping, it satisfied that craving.”
It was effective. E-cigarettes and juuls quickly helped him recover from his addiction, however, it didn’t just quiet his need for cigarettes, but rather transferred his addiction from cigarettes to the new method.
“I don’t think I’d 100 percent quit; I like it too much,” Derek said.
Derek has been aware of how his affinity for e-cigarettes and juuls has developed over time.
“I originally started with zero nicotine and moved up from there,” Derek said. “I used to try to do tricks on it, and now I just do it for the nicotine.”
Despite the negative side effects, he stands by his decision to switch.
“I view vaping as a very, very healthy alternative to smoking,” Derek said.
As vaping numbers rise, more and more teens are drawn in by the aesthetic and ‘safer’ complex of vaping.
But safer, does not equal safe. E-cigarettes, juuls, mods and other forms still contain toxins, cancerous substances and addictive agents. Juuls, a popular type of e-cigarette commonly contain 20 times the amount of nicotine as cigarettes.
According to an article written by Dr Michael Joseph Blaha at John Hopkins Medicine, in some ways, e-cigarettes are just as dangerous as traditional cigarettes.
“Both e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes contain nicotine, which research suggests may be as addictive as heroin and cocaine. What’s worse many e-cigarette users get even more nicotine than they would from a tobacco product,” said Blaha.
There has not been enough time to fully comprehend the long term effects of vaping. The rise in vaping numbers truly suggests that ignorance is bliss.
“A lot of people stay away from cigarettes because of what it can do. With vaping, no one thinks that it can do permanent damage,” Valerie said.
Vaping takes teens a step closer to cigarettes. It brings the regularly repulsive idea closer to understandable.
“A lot of kids would never touch a cigarette, and if they start vaping, [they’re] able to rationalize it,” Valerie said.
The bottom line is, e-cigarettes still contain nicotine, and are, consequently, still addictive.
“It’ll get you addicted right away. You’ll think its super cool,” Chase said. “Once the nicotine gets in you, it’s affected you already.”