Tyler Smith, Contributing Writer
Everyone probably knows someone who vapes. After reading that sentence, you probably had two or three people pop into your mind. Vaping has gone from a niche hobby to a mainstream habit. It burst onto the marketing scene and fundamentally changed how tobacco companies sold their products. It even forced “Truth” an organization best known for its fight against tobacco to restructure entirely.
“When I started vaping it was probably back in 2017, 2018. I found out [about it] through instagram, actually,” one student recalled. “I was just scrolling through and I saw vape tricks and I was like, Oh that’s cool. It piqued my interest.”
However, some ominous clouds could be forming over the horizon. As vaping continues to rise in popularity, some health experts are seriously concerned about the long-term consequences. Between health experts, young users, manufacturers, and retailers, the sheer amount of opinions, and all the limited long term studies on the matter, it is hard to find corroborate correct information
So what is vaping, anyway? According to centeronaddiction.com, it is the inhalation of aerosols or vapors produced by e-cigarettes or similar devices. Another noticeable difference between vaping and cigarettes is the smell, or lack thereof. While cigarettes have a strong tobacco smell that a lot of non-smokers find gross, vape pens only give off water vapor. Plus they tend to taste like pleasant things, like pound cake or berries.
The student continued, “Being a broke college student, it’s hard to even afford vape pens. The vape pen itself can be up to $200 dollars, but the juice is only $3-10 dollars. That’s how I got hooked, I like the flavors. It’s just a water vapor sort of a thing.”
Those things are much less obtrusive than cigarette ash that soaks into every fabric it touches and stays there for weeks. However, these fruit flavored pods weren’t regulated by the FDA until a couple years ago, so there wasn’t any telling what was in them. Also, according to Vox, Juul itself claims that the nicotine in one of their e-liquid pods isequal to a whole pack of cigarettes.
According to CNN.com, the rates of 8th, 10th, and 12thgraders vaping doubled from 2017 to 2019. One could say it is the result of aggressive marketing campaigns targeted towards them. The American Heart Association website states that tobacco companies spent more than $125 million on aggressive advertising. For an older crowd, there are heartwarming success stories about how Juuls and vaping has helped them quit wasting time and money on cigarettes and switched to a cleaner alternative, even though the research we have isn’t enough to prove it as an effective anti-smoking method.
Organizations such as truth.org has also taken notice. truth.org, sometimes known just as “Truth,” is one of the biggest advocates against big tobacco companies. They ran an aggressive campaign specifically targeting the use of cigarettes by teens including scare tactics, statistics, and memes. When vaping became prominent, Truth reorganized its entire campaign to take on vaping as a habit and an industry. Not everyone is onboard with them. Vape.com directly and openly opposes Truth’s campaign. They mention it by name and use screenshots from the truth.org website. However, one of the sources they use to oppose one of the statistics on truth.org is a single tweet from a twitter user, and it should be noted that Vape.com also sells vape pens and other products for vaping.
The social impact of vaping should also be considered. A lot of what teens and some young adults do is simply because other people do it. That’s not to blame them, though. It’s the pack mentality everyone is a little guilty of it. Part of what makes vaping so prominent is how people see other people do it. Just a few years ago, vaping was a bit of a punchline. On the now dead social media platform Vine, there used to be jokes pointed towards people who vaped. Now on its popular successor TikTok, vaping isn’t just accepted, it’s celebrated. There are tons of compilations of teens doing vape tricks for the world to see. Plus, with platforms like Instagram becoming a hub for online shopping and influencers, there’s no shortage of encouragement.
People aren’t completely oblivious, though. With the recent rise in concern about the long term safety of vaping, more research is being conducted. Another student voiced her concerns, but not complete disapproval of the matter. “ I have been vaping on and off for about two years. I noticed when I did it I didn’t feel that great physically. I noticed that when I stopped the tightness in my chest started to go away.I think vaping is fine when you don’t do it all day every day.” Vox mentions the relative risks of vaping versus smoking, saying that “experts say vaping is far better for your health than smoking”.
As with most things, only time will tell.