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Clouding the Population: Planet of the Vapes

In the year 1963, a man by the name of Herbert Gilbert created the world’s first non-nicotine electronic cigarette. It wasn’t until the early 21st century, however, when Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik developed a nicotine-based electronic cigarette. Since then, thrill-seekers looking for more than just the typical e-cig have developed a sub-culture known as vaping that has risen in popularity over the past several years. According to research and markets, the global e-cig and vaporizer market is expected to grow to over $47 billion by the year 2025. Oxford even named “vape” the word of the year in 2014. While vaping was developed as a means to wean smokes off of cigarettes, for many adolescents, the trend has turned into an addiction itself.

December 6, 2016

This story was originally published in the December 2016 Issue of Eastside:

Alternatives to Cigarettes

Currently, numerous types of e-cigarettes and related products exist on the market. Electronic cigarettes, commonly referred to as “e-cigs”, are battery-operated devices that resemble regular cigarettes. Hookah is a water pipe that can be used to smoke a special variety of flavored tobacco. Hookah smoking is typically done in groups, as the base may contain multiple hoses with mouthpieces at the end. Vaporizers, otherwise known as “vapes”, have developed from e-cigs. While both products are battery-operated and do not release second-hand smoke, vapes allow users to refill the device with their choice of ingredients. E-cigs are generally pre-filled in the factory, and are made for single usage.

“If you’re a heavy smoker, you would have an e-cigarette, and it was supposed to taper you down with smaller amounts of nicotine to nothing, and that makes complete sense,” said Mrs. Jen DiStefano, Student Assistance Counselor. “The problem is, then the vapor pens [allow you to] add your own nicotine oils to it, and other things. The concentrate of the nicotine in the vapor is so much higher, because it’s true oil that you’re putting into the actual vapor.”

                                                        Signs of Vaping

DiStefano has been trained on vaping through a variety of sessions, including some run by the Cherry Hill Police Department specifically for educators in the district. She then educated East teachers on how to detect student vaping.

“It’s hard to find [signs of vaping] unless [students are] actually doing them. So [the] number one [sign] is smell,” said DiStefano.

Many vape pens have a distinct, unnatural smell due to the flavoring used. Flavors can range anywhere from watermelon to cinnamon muffin.

“Obviously white puffs of clouds of smoke [is also a sign],” said DiStefano. “Exchange [as well], so if kids are buying it here, and there is a type of exchange of money for the product.”

East has been cracking down on the use of vaporizers and e-cigarettes over the past few years. The use of of a vape pen with nicotine within it falls under the Tobacco and Under the Influence Policy. Furthermore, vape pens, even those without nicotine, are considered paraphernalia, and are also included in the policy.

 

Dangers of Vaping

In addition to a greater nicotine concentration in the oil, vaping poses many other dangers. Many of these problems arise due to the nature of the vape pens having to be refilled by the user. According to the Wall Street Journal, vaporizers have larger batteries and cartridges, allowing the devices to hold more liquid and last longer.

Furthermore, these refillable cartridges allow users to put more than just nicotine oil into the vape pens. Some people are loading the pens with cannabis extract, also known as THC oil, which stands for tetrahydrocannabinols. THC oil is the strongest form of marijuana, and can cause a variety of effects on the brain.

While some users may argue that they do not load their pens with addictive drugs, the smoke itself can have damaging effects on the lungs. According to a study by the American Psychological Society, even non-nicotine vapor contains substances such as acrolein that can attack molecules holding together the endothelial cells of the lungs. Usage can also cause lung inflammation.  

And for some teens, vaping poses an even bigger issue: propagating an addiction, which never existed in the first place.

“[The Big tobacco industry] truly [sees] it as an alternative to actually smoking, but how many kids are addicted to cigarette smoking?” said DiStefano. “You’re not doing it because you’re addicted to smoking cigarettes.”

Finally, and perhaps most damaging, vaporizers simply have not been around within the U.S. long enough to warrant any substantial research. Fewer than 100 studies on vaporizers have been conducted since the product’s 2007 introduction into America.

“ I think that research is down the road, but you’re not going to find a lot of data on that because [vaping] is so new,” said DiStefano. “As time goes on, in [the millennial] generation especially, there might be some sort of effects of long term use and that’s when they’ll start doing research on it.”

But even with the scarce research that does exist, the results do not look promising. According to a 2016 study by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, mice exposed to e-cig vapors had increased plaque build-up, an early sign of atherosclerosis. The study also conducted research on healthy human immune cells, exposing that vaping is correlated to increased susceptibility to any kind of infection.

Legality of Vaping

With the new rise of vaping products, authorities have been forced to answer the question: at what age can one begin purchasing vape? Currently, the nation stands divided on the subject, with laws vastly differing from state to state.

New Jersey was the first state to pass strict anti-vaping legislation back in 2008. The 2008 bill includes vaping products and e-cigarettes on the list of tobacco-related items that cannot be sold to minors under  the age of 19. New Jersey isn’t alone in passing this minor-restricting legislation; forty-eight of the states throughout the country have chosen to ban vape sales to minors as well.

But New Jersey’s legality issues with vape don’t stop there. Along with eight other states in the nation, New Jersey has also issued a statewide ban, prohibiting the use of e-cigarettes and vaporizers in public places, workplaces. and all traditional places in which smoking is banned.

And now, New Jersey is attempting to pass its most stringent anti-vaping bill of all. Currently making its way through the New Jersey Legislature, is bill S298. This bill details New Jersey’s plan to entirely ban the sale of “flavored electronic smoking devices” within the state. Under this legislation only clove, menthol and tobacco vapor flavors would be allowed for New Jersey sale.

The state’s rationale behind this ban? To further eliminate the threat of those under the legal age of 19 using vaping products. According to New Jersey State Senator Joseph Vitale, the sale of flavored ‘e-juice,’ encourages kids to purchase vaping products, since “if it tastes like gummy bears or cotton candy or vanilla, [kids are] much more likely to try it and become addicted.” The bill is supported by both the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association.

On May 16, the bill was approved by the Senate health committee, but it has yet to be enacted. It must first be passed by the full state Senate and Assembly, and finally by Christie, in order to become law.

In terms of school policy, vaping is strictly prohibited as well as a part of the Tobacco and Under the Influence Policy.

Looking to the Future

Some merely see vaping as a trend, which will soon fade away.

“I think that it’s definitely a current trend. I think it’s trendy. So whatever is trendy people tend to go to because you can easily find it, you can easily buy it,” said DiStefano. “Parents are sometimes uneducated, might not realize what can be put into them, or even what they really are. I think it’s much more culturally acceptable”

In fact, recently, several have attested that the “vape trend” is already declining, particularly due to all of the current legislation restricting the product.

“It’s not as frequent as it was in the past couple years, it’s actually died down a little bit,” said DiStefano. “I think once kids caught on that it was against our policy to have them school, they don’t really bring them as much anymore.”

Yet despite this downward shift in recent months, it appears that vape products have a lasting power, at least in terms of a financial sense.

With vape pens providing users with a distinct, experience to users, there is doubt to them vanishing any time soon. In 2015 alone, the industry accounted for $3.5 billion in retail sales and these sales are expected to rise to $10 billion by the year of 2018, according to Wells Fargo. According to market researcher Euromonitor, vaping will be a $50 billion industry by 2030.

Vaping also appears to have a resiliency due to the number of physical locations currently open, which provide vaping products. There are more than 3,500 vape shops across the nation, and 5 within a 6 mile radius of Cherry Hill East.

“Almost every town has a vapor shop. I can’t imagine it going away anytime soon,” added DiStefano.

Further, vapor largely appears to have a lasting tendency, due to misconceptions surrounding the product.

“Parents are sometimes uneducated, [and] might not realize what can be put into them, or even what they really are,” said DiStefano. “Vape pens, even those without nicotine, are considered paraphernalia.”

And due to this cultural acceptability it appears that vape products may remain in the limelight for many years to come.

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A Peek Inside the Vaping Industry

Interview with Aaron Nicholas, Manager of Hollywood Smokin'

In the society that we live in today, it is rare that you will ever find anybody without access to some form of media, especially adolescents. While this availability of information can be helpful in certain cases, it also increases the exposure to dangerous trends and crazes. Some of those trends are healthy, but one concerning trend has recently been gaining popularity: vaping.

According to the Center for Disease Control, 3.7 percent of Americans adults use electronic cigarette or vape products on a regular basis. Out of that percentage, some users take to social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram to create videos. A single search of the word “vaping” on Youtube reveals a plethora of videos on a wide range of topics, including “how to vape”, “vape tricks” and “trying random vape juices”.. The public nature of these videos makes the usage of vapor products appear more culturally acceptable, potentially encouraging others to try vaping.

 Probably for about the past five years [vaping has] been really big. It kinda started off with all of the blu e-cigarettes and little individual draw cigarettes that you can find at your Wawas and 7-11s. And from there it kinda molded into a bigger community with all of the different tanks and batteries and different areas and ways to go. ”

— Aaron Nicholas, Manager of Hollywood Smokin''

Teenagers are always under the scrutiny of their peers, and are more inclined to try something if they view friends having fun with the action. Peer pressure is a constant factor in adolescent culture. All it takes is one ten-second Snapchat from a classmate at a party smoking a vape at a party to encourage someone to purchase a vapor product without knowing the side effects.

On a larger scale, with celebrities including Leonardo DiCaprio, Katherine Heigl and Katy Perry flaunting their own vapor products, it is very easy for teens to get caught up in the trend. DiCaprio showed off his vape pen at the 2016 Screen Actors Guild Awards Ceremony, while Perry reportedly shared a vape with Orlando Bloom at the 2016 Golden Globes. By bringing vape pens to such public venues, often publicized to thousands of viewers, celebrities are simply helping the vape culture to grow.

This exposure becomes dangerous when teens are not educated about vape products. After just a short video, one may be inspired to sample a vape pen, which could potentially turn into an addiction.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly six percent of high school seniors smoke cigarettes and 4.7 million middle and high schoolers smoke cigarettes nationwide. While these are large numbers, the number of people who smoke in the United States is currently decreasing. At the last count, about four percent less Americans smoke now than they did ten years ago. These are great statistics and while many people probably are giving up smoking anything completely, others have found a replacement: vaping.

Initially, many people turned to e-cigarettes to help cut their smoking addiction. E-cigs also have nicotine in them, along with the look and feel of actual cigarettes. According to a study done by the British government in 2015, e-cigs are 95 percent safer than smoking. In addition, instead of producing secondhand smoke, they produce vapor. E-cig sales spiked in the early 2010s and e-cig companies turned into multi-billion dollar corporations.

E-cigs can be disposable or rechargeable and thus come with batteries. One can vape with an e-cig, which is oftentimes cheaper than a vaporizer or vapor e-cigarette. An e-cig has no buttons, has different flavors from which to chose, and allows users to choose the amount of nicotine in the e-cig. A vaporizer, on the other hand, is much more customizable than a e-cig, offering greater diversity of cartomizers and e liquids. They often have longer battery lives and the hit given to the chest and throat is often stronger than that from an e-cig. Both of these options contain nicotine, which is quintessential when it comes to helping a person quit smoking.

Stopping a smoking habit cold turkey is dangerous, so various methods have been created to help. Nicotine is the addictive substance is cigarettes, and to cut the addition, it is necessary to wean the person off of nicotine. This can be accomplished by nicotine patches, nicotine gum, etc. Vaping – which has the same look and feel as a cigarette without some of the many health issues and complications – can also be used for this purpose. This is what has helped popularize it – it is so similar to smoking but without many of the negative effects such as the scent, the proclivity for certain diseases, and secondhand smoke.

Although vaping is considered healthier than smoking, it only started being regulated by the Food and Drug Administration in August of 2016. These regulations do not cover all of the hundreds of options of flavors and brands out there for e-cigs and vaporizers. The health risks of vaping are not entirely known.

Vaping is considered healthier than cigarettes, which is why many are making the switch. The number of those who vape continues to rise, while the number of those who smoke continues to fall.

Josh Sodicoff 

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Thank you for Reading!

Thank you for reading “Clouding the Population: Planet of the Vapes.” We hope you have gained insight into the vape craze, which is currently sweeping the nation.

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