The dangers—and unknowns—of vaping were the focus of an Amity High School PTSO presentation for parents last month. “We don’t have long-term data to know what is going to happen to people who are vaping, but we do know what it does to mice and it’s not pretty,” said Yale researcher Tricia Dahl, who also presented to the high school students this fall. She suggests students enter social, and even school situations, with a plan for what they will do if someone offers them an opportunity to vape.
“Tell them you have asthma, but have a plan,” she said. She works with Yale School of Medicine’s Tobacco Research in Youth program, which is working with the Food and Drug Administration to uncover the effects that vaping can have on the youth.
According to December research by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 6% of eighth grade students, 16% of tenth graders and 21% of twelfth graders admitted to vaping nicotine or marijuana in the past month. “These are astounding results – they’ve nearly doubled over 2017,” Dahl said. Most students are opting for the Juul brand electronic cigarette, which is marketed as a satisfying alternative to cigarettes with ‘a mission to improve the lives of the world’s one billion smokers.’
“Kids are being led to believe that it’s a healthy alternative to smoking cigarettes. They have no idea what they’re putting into their bodies,” Dahl said.
The Juul device, which was created in 2015, resembles a USB flash drive to the extent that it can be charged by a computer’s USB port. Juul brand pods come in flavors such as mango, crème and fruit, which appeal to teens. E-cigarettes can also be used to smoke THC oil from marijuana, which also comes in refillable pods. Vaping marijuana causes an immediate and intense high, unlike the effect of inhaling marijuana in a combustible form.
“The cinnamon flavor (nicotine) pod comes with a warning because it can be corrosive in a plastic container. But they can inhale it,” Dahl said. “The more flavor, the more chemicals they are inhaling and they all cause inflammation of the lungs.”
One pod contains the amount of nicotine found in one-half a pack of cigarettes. “The Juul has 59% nicotine. There is nothing on the market that has this level of nicotine,” she says. The effects are not only physical, but mental, too. With the introduction of nicotine, the body slows down production dopamine and things that used to make people happy no longer do, according to Dahl.
“It’s also affecting memory and the heart, as it makes the heart race,” she said, adding that some of the damages done to the body by vaping are permanent. “On the physical side, they’re inhaling oil and the lungs don’t know what to do with it. Lungs are becoming coated in oil, it’s creating heartburn and it’s damaging the pancreas and reproductive organs,” she says.
“I don’t even know why they call it vaping. It’s not vapor. It’s aerosol—particles in the air,” she said, adding that there have been cases where oil gets on a person’s fingers, then into their eyes and permanent damage is caused.
“This is what we know now. Vaping has quickly become a $200 million industry. We don’t know what our research is going to find,” she said.
By Melissa Nicefaro – Woodbridge Town News Correspondent