Teenagers of the ‘80s were smoking cigarettes in high school bathrooms, on the bleachers, even in their cars—and you’d see it in the movies. While modern day tobacco use is significantly lower than decades before, a new and popular form of nicotine intake has come to light: vaping.
What is vaping?
Vaping is the inhalation of vapor created by electronic smoking devices, usually containing nicotine, flavoring, and chemicals in a cartridge. Popular vaping brands that provide these devices in drug stores are Juul, STIG, and Suorin. Like cigarettes, when you inhale through a vape, you take in nicotine that almost immediately reaches your brain. The nicotine binds to receptors in your brain, triggering dopamine release. Sustained intake of the drug eventually causes changes in the reward circuitry of the brain, oftentimes leading to nicotine dependence.
A new generation of nicotine addicts
These days, you can look around at a party and find at least one person nearby vaping from an e-cigarette. Vaping has increased in popularity in recent years, especially among youth. This does not come as a shock. Consider the wide array of flavors that vaping brands boast on the shelves of drug stores: blue raspberry, watermelon, and even vanilla. This variety of sweet and appealing flavors attracts younger aged individuals. The surge in popularity of vaping among young Americans is is unsurprising, with teen usage jumping from 27 to 37 percent from 2017 to 2018. Even worse, because young brains are still developing, the potential for long-term addiction increases astronomically. In fact, numbers show that of those who smoke, 90 percent of them began before the age of 18.
What many fail to acknowledge is that nicotine is a highly addictive drug, some would say as addictive as heroin. While vaping allows you to avoid the cancer-causing chemicals of tobacco, users are still inhaling nicotine. In fact, they could be taking in more through a vape than a regular cigarette. That being said, while vaping is said to be a “healthier” form of nicotine intake for those kicking cigarettes, it has instead become an easily accessible form of nicotine, and it is this accessibility that exacerbates the problem.
The dangerous differences between cigs & vapes
Marketing geniuses created a means of smoking where you no longer have to suffer the deterrents that likely contributed to the fading of smoking culture in the first place. Why have yellow teeth and reek of cigarettes when you could just vape your nicotine? And why step outside when you can get your fix on your couch? The fact of the matter is, the more readily available something is, the more you are likely to use it. Cigarettes may have provided noteworthy deterrents that vapes do not, making the road to addiction a bit slippier in the modern day.
The future of vaping
While seemingly alarming, vapes need not be abolished just yet. The long-term health risks are unknown for now, as vaping is relatively new to society. Moreover, many would argue that the trade-off is worth it. If you smoke a pack of cigarettes a day, then maybe having access to buying a vaping device at your local CVS could be your road to quitting, or at least avoiding the carcinogenic chemicals in cigs. Nonetheless, while vapes pose dangerous problems and seem to recruit youth in unsettling amounts, it is likely they will stay on the shelves for the near future.