Although e-cigarettes have been around for more than a decade, vaping rates have skyrocketed in recent years, especially among teens. E-cigarettes are now the most frequently used tobacco product among adolescents — some 2.1 million middle and high school students were e-cigarette users in 2017 — far surpassing traditional combustible cigarettes.
JUUL, a popular vape device that comes in fun flavors, looks like a flash drive and can be charged in a USB port, is especially concerning. JUUL delivers high levels of nicotine, making the product extremely addictive. The company that makes and markets JUUL recently exceeded a $10 billion valuation faster than any company, including Facebook. JUUL sales now make up more than half of the e-cigarette market.
Last month the FDA announced that it will be cracking down not only on illegal sales of e-cigarettes to minors, but also the “kid-friendly marketing and appeal of these products” because “we see clear signs that youth use of electronic cigarettes has reached an epidemic proportion.”
Teachers, health professionals and parents are alarmed by this trend and trying to educate not only teens but also themselves, as it’s all still so new
.E-cigarettes contain high levels of nicotine. According to the company’s website, the nicotine content of one JUULpod is equivalent to one pack of cigarettes.
Because of these high nicotine levels, vaping is extremely addictive — and teens are already more susceptible to addiction than adults because their brains are still developing, which makes them more likely to habituate to using drugs and alcohol.
Addiction can impact the ability to focus. Doctors have observed this with the adolescents he works with, who report that vaping initially increases their alertness and attention, but then experience a decrease in attention span. One student, for example, was able to sit through practice ACT exams but after JUULing for six months “can’t sit still because she starts craving, can’t think of questions, and just starts fidgeting.”
E-cigarettes and similar devices contain carcinogenic compounds, and a recent study found significantly increased levels of carcinogens in the urine of teens who vape.
A recent study found that vaping does, in fact, cause lung irritation akin to that seen in smokers and people with lung disease and causes damage to vital immune system cells.
doctors have noted that vaping increases heart rate and blood pressure, so can increase circulatory problems. One teen he works with started vaping and found that his swim times dropped because he can no longer sustain the heart rate required for swimming.