Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
January 15, 2019 | ISSUE 10
By Erjia Guan
The e-cigarette is a type of cigarette that has gained astonishing popularities from the recent years, and it keeps getting more “trendy” among teenagers, especially in high school and middle school users. With 20% of high school students using them in 2018, a staggering 78% increase from the previous year.
The e-cigarette, also known as the electronic cigarette, uses electricity from its battery to heat up its storage of “vape juice” (e-juice or e-liquid) thus generating aerosols that contains both water vapors and particles. Invented back in '60s, it is not until today that it has achieved such a commercial success and developed to have over thousands of flavors of vape juice, which is a important contributor that helped to e-cigs to gain its popularity. However when it comes to reputation, there are concerns on these vaping products. Most of us have seen the ads from campaigns that suggests the danger of e-cigs, and based on our knowledge of the traditional cigarettes, it is reasonable for us to have these doubts on this product. So what contents are we smoking when we vape?
Looking into the content of vape juice, there’s four major ingredients: water, nicotine, flavor, and propylene glycol or glycerin. The water is used to generate water vapors. As for flavor, it is impossible to tell all the ingredients, but they are mostly consisted of food-grade and safe to orally ingest contents, however they commonly contains “diacetyl”, a chemical that gives us the chance of causing lung and respiratory diseases. The propylene glycol or glycerin are the major content of the juice. They are generally classified as safe food-grade products by the Federal Drug Administration, but same as the flavors, we are not fully clear of its effects on us when they are inhaled. Lastly there is nicotine. It is generally understood that nicotine amount in a cartridge of e-juice is two to five times higher than its amount in a pack of traditional cigarettes. Nicotine is a very addictive substance and successive nicotine injection is known for causing issues on heart, hormones, and digestion system.
Furthermore, studies shows that there are more products that is produced when these contents above is heated. In fact, fifty to eighty percent more new chemicals were created when the e-juice is heated than what is in the e-juice initially (Sven Eric-Jordt, professor at Duke University), and among these are cancer-causing chemicals along with others that are harmful to human cells (Maciej Goniewicz, expert at Roswell Park Cancer Institute). While some vaping products and modifications are intended to generate more smoke using a higher heat, they also increases the chance of producing these harmful contents. The fact here is lack of understanding and regulation might contribute to the risk of vaping having negative effects on the human body.
Vast variety of the e-juice, types of e-cigarettes and its modification gives us infinite possibilities when we vape. From a research done by researchers at UNC School of Medicine: "We found that e-liquid ingredients are extremely diverse, and some of them are more toxic than nicotine alone and more toxic than just the standard base ingredients in e-cigarette." Thankfully that the FDA has started to regulate the ingredients been used in e-juice.
In general the harmfulness of e-cigarette is all relative when you compare it to the traditional cigarettes or tobacco products. Public Health England (PHE), a British government organization, has stated in the conclusion of its research that vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking. PHE has also stated that “there is much public misunderstanding about nicotine (less than 10% of adults understand that most of the harms to health from smoking are not caused by nicotine)”. Looking from the perspective given by these words, we could easily see that there might be a future where e-cigarettes can help smokers to quit smoking, since vape juice contains nicotine, the content that makes you addictive, amount two to five times higher than pack of cigarette. However, through massive campaigns by the manufactures, many of the population has started to smoke, especially teenagers who lack self control. In the end, there is much more research that are needed to be conducted on vaping and its effects. There is no guarantee to say vaping is very safe or dangerous, but there is much more we need to learn about this “trendy” product.
When talking to teachers and students of our school, we can see the dangers of the phenomenon.
“It's a complicated situation. The people who are already smoking can use it to quit tradition cigarettes, however they then got addicted to e-cigs because it (e-cig) only has nicotine. Also, their massive advertising campaign that got more people started to smoke.”
Roxie, English Language Arts Teacher
“E-Cigarettes are more dangerous than normal cigarettes because it has more chemicals. It can to do more damage to users than traditional ones.”
Anonymous, Team Bridges Student
“America has spent the last 30 years on making teens to quit, and now just 5 years and all the teenagers started to smoke. Their( e-cigs) ad campaign is like the ad campaign for cigarettes many years ago.”
Rebecca, Visual Arts Teacher
“Teens do it for trend, curiosity, they are attracted by the flavor options and YouTube videos that features them."
Anonymous, Team Bridges Student
“I tried it sometimes just out of curiosity. I got it from a friend and tried it to know it’s like.”
Anonymous, Team Bridges Student
(Can e-cigs be used to help people to quit smoke?) “That’s the idea, but it is being used by many teens to start smoking. It’s crazy all these teens smoking e-cigs these days. I saw some teen smoking it in the subway! -Tony - Bridges Teacher
Tony, Government & Economics Teacher
“E-cigarettes are better in terms of the smoke it produces when compared to traditional cigarettes. But it still contains a lot of harmful chemicals.”
Marilyn , Biology Teacher
“They are dangerous, contains a lot of chemicals that are harmful. The e-cigs encourages many students to start smoke. And their advertisement is targeting teenagers.”
Kevin, Assistant Principal