New discussions around vaping are recently happening on social media as more information is coming to light about both what they contain and what they can cause.
A vape is an electronic form of a cigarette that was created to help smokers with trying to quit smoking. Their popularity has been steadily rising amongst younger people over the past several years. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducted a survey in 2021 that found around two million youth regularly utilize electronic nicotine devices.
On Sept. 27, a TikTok user with the username @paige.ferguson05 posted a video with a Google search questioning whether vape liquids have gluten in them. The video garnered over 439,000 likes, and more videos were posted on the platform after hers went viral of young people being shocked to learn that some vape liquids had gluten in them — a fact that is not typically advertised on a vape package.
Another rumor circulating the internet is the brand of vape called “Elf Bars” cause gingivitis. This is technically true, as vaping could cause gum problems. However, this brand, specifically, is not a singular cause of it.
Former SUNY New Paltz student Tomiko McGovern, 22, has vaped since she was a junior in high school. Regarding her introduction to it, she says, “My friend had one and she let me try it and, eventually, I just got my own.” McGovern has noticed changes in her health since she first begun to vape. She says that these changes are most noticeable to her when she walks up a flight of stairs or when she breathes, in general.
McGovern also discussed the effects of the effort put in by the government to keep younger people from becoming addicted to nicotine. She said, “I think that there definitely is an effort but actually getting them to stop is not happening because we’re all starting at such a young age.” The social aspect of vaping is one that makes it difficult for many to quit. McGovern explained how she has quit many times but goes back to it because of how many of her close friends have vapes.
Primary care specialist Dr. Maria Ranin-Lay has first handedly seen this alternative to cigarettes fall into the wrong hands. When asked about the ages of her patients who she knows use vapes, she says, “I have one older but mostly younger.” She says that a majority of the patients she sees vaping are young. Dr. Ranin-Lay also discusses how “the vaping liquids are not pure… Some of these substances are ones that kids buy off the street. There’s got to be a lot of issues associated with that.”
The desire coming from young people to get vapes may have come from the early advertisements of them. JUUL came under fire as early as 2019 for allegedly marketing its e-cigarettes to minors. Such tactics included utilizing younger models in their campaign, advertising with memes and their vape cartridges being colorful with fruity flavors.
The dangers of vaping are nothing new though. In 2019, there were multiple cases of younger people being hospitalized for lung damage, which is referred to as “EVALI.” EVALI is used when referencing any e-cigarette or vaping use-associated lung injury. “A lot of those cases were hospitalized, had severe respiratory failure, and some patients who were young ended up being on oxygen for the rest of their lives,” Dr. Ranin-Lay says. She explained how, after this, she stopped recommending e-cigarettes to her patients who were trying to quit smoking. Instead, she prescribed them with medications like Chantix, a prescribed medication that aids people with the withdrawal effects of nicotine.
Looking towards the future of efforts to minimize vaping amongst younger people, the FDA announced in July that it planned to remove JUUL company vapes from the market. According to Truth Initiative, a nonprofit organization dedicated to aiding nicotine addiction, the JUUL brand makes up around 75% of the e-cigarette market sales.
On Oct. 7, the Financial Times reported that JUUL Labs Inc. is in the early stages of filing bankruptcy. What this means for the vaping market is unclear as disposable vapes have been steadily rising in popularity as opposed to JUUL brand ones, which are reusable.
Vaping is a topic that has been and will be debated for years to come. The long term effects of vaping are still not completely known, and health professionals are still researching what they could potentially be.
“It’s up to the government to be aware of these issues and to make any real changes,” Dr. Ranin-Lay said.