The recent headlines in the news regarding vaping are grim and the state of alarm nationwide is high. Rightfully so… The Centers for Disease Control has confirmed that there have been seven vaping-related deaths and nearly 400 confirmed cases of lung disease related to vaping.
Young people across the country have been admitted to emergency departments or landed themselves in intensive care units due to collapsed lungs, inflammation of lung tissue and lung damage from vaping.
Vaping first came to popularity years ago as an alternative to cigarette smoking and it was often considered a productive way to help people quit cigarettes. When many people think of vaping they think of the word vapor, which elicits the connection to humidifier or diffusers. I hear time and time again the mindset that humidifiers and diffusers are harmless, so the vapor produced from vaping must be harmless too. That’s far from accurate.
The term “vaping” describes the process when a substance is heated to the point of releasing vapor (vaporizing) but not combusted (lit on fire). Individuals who vape inhale and exhale the aerosol, often referred to as vapor, which is produced by an e-cigarette or similar device.
These devices range in appearance and the design can resemble traditional pipes, flash drives and even pens or highlighters. Typically, they include a battery and cartridge containing e-juice or e-liquids.
The FDA has not evaluated any of the e-liquids currently on the market and does not regulate these products. In other words, they are not deemed safe. The ingredients in these e-liquids contain flavorings and humectant (propelyne glycol or vegetable glycerin), which again may sound harmless to the common ear. However, once these ingredients are heated, they produce a variety of chemicals including formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, acrolein, particulates and toxic metals to name a few, which are directly harmful to humans and proven carcinogens.
In addition to these dangerous e-liquids, many of these vaping devices also contain nicotine and cannabis. Vaping is more powerful and potent than smoking and many individuals are experiencing a substance use disorder as a result.
Still, what’s most problematic about this vaping dilemma is its popularity among youth … Nearly 20% of all 8th graders and 40% of all 12th graders have tried vaping this year. Vaping has increased 78% among high school students and 48% among middle school students in the last year alone.
Cigarettes and smoking marijuana have long symbolized youth rebellion. Kids often smoke to fit in, appear cool or disregard authority. Now, e-cigarettes and vapes are the most common tobacco product used by teens and more and more kids who would’ve never tried a traditional cigarette or joint have been enticed into trying vaping.
Not only does vaping expose individuals to harmful chemicals and toxins, but adolescents are at a greater risk for cognitive impairment and hindered brain development, too. We know that nicotine and marijuana can interfere with natural brain development in key areas, including the prefrontal cortex, the area responsible for decision making, judgment, and planning.
The long and short-term side effects of this vaping trend are proving to be truly scary. That said, Rosecrance has a long, demonstrated history of working effectively with teens. From education, prevention and intervention services, counseling, navigating initial conversations, exploring treatment options, conducting assessments, and providing an excellent continuum of care, Rosecrance can really help individuals, families, schools and communities at any level they need.
If you know a child or teen who is using vaping and have concerns, let Rosecrance be a resource for you in the community. This can be an unsettling situation to navigate and the road to recovery and wellness is often challenging and far from straight forward.
Rosecrance is here to help through every up and down! Call 815.391.1000 or visit our website at rosecrance.org.
Matthew Quinn is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor who works as a Community Relations Coordinator at Rosecrance, a non-profit organization and national leader in substance use and mental health treatment services, serving nearly 50,000 clients a year, operating 60 locations across Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin.