By Brendan Maher
You’re likely at least familiar with someone who vapes. According to Pew Research Center studies done in 2018, 21% of college students claimed to have vaped in the past thirty days, and 27% of 12th graders reported the same. But after a string of vaping related deaths in the United States, the safety of vaping is being called into question.
In the limited research that has been done studying safety of vaping, very few studies outright indicate that it is safe. However, some professionals, such as Dr. Michael Blaha, director of clinical research at John Hopkins, feel that there is a distinction to be made between vaping and traditional cigarettes.
“There’s almost no doubt that [e-cigarettes] expose you to fewer toxic chemicals than traditional cigarettes,” said Blaha.
However, Kathy Prosperi, a part-time registered nurse at SVC’s Health and Wellness Center, explained why, as a heath professional, she would “encourage students to give up vaping.”
Prosperi said that the white smoke created by vape devices is not simply harmless water vapor. The gas that is created delivers flavor, and sometimes, THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis which contains many harmful chemicals.
Additionally, Prosperi explained that the damaging agents that can be found in e-cigarette vapor include, but are not limited to: heavy metals such as tin, nickel, and lead; ultrafine particles which can inflame the lungs and worsen asthma; and even organic compounds such as benzene, which is a known carcinogen. Many vape liquids contain nicotine as well, she said.
Prosperi also stated that its effects on the brain should be of particular concern to those under the age of 25, due to the fact that the prefrontal cortex continues to develop until that age. This part of the brain is responsible for attention, memory, learning, and impulse control.
But the difficulty that comes with quitting nicotine has been know long before the emergence of vaping products. Many people who attempt to quit by using nicotine products, vape or otherwise, often fail.
Properi stated that when it comes to quitting nicotine, “the SVC Wellness Center is here to help!”
Students can make an appointment by calling 724-805-2115. At the appointment, a student has the opportunity to speak with a registered nurse who can help them formulate a plan for quitting by identifying triggers and learning to manage cravings.
According to Prosperi, some resources outside of Saint Vincent that can help with ending nicotine addiction include calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW or by visiting www.mylifemyquit.com.
The sheer popularity of vaping amongst young people has caused a great deal of concern for parents and health experts alike.
Prosperi stated that the Surgeon General of the United States, Jerome Adams, has recently declared that the use of vaping products by middle and high schoolers is now an epidemic.
According to Pew research, 3.6 million teens used e-cigarettes between 2017 and 2019. Despite the widespread use of vape devices in American high schools, Prosperi says that she has not heard of e-cigarette use in colleges “being labeled an epidemic.” But while the uses of e-cigarettes in colleges may not be at epidemic levels, they are certainly still popular.
The long-term effects of vaping are largely unknown, as was true with cigarettes at one time. With legislation tightening regarding the sale of e-cigarettes, it is also unknown if vaping will continue to grow in popularity among young people or if it will be a short-lived fad, dissipating like a puff of flavored mist.