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Issue of Vaping in Schools
Vaping or e-cigarette usage seems to be all over the news recently. We have seen and heard about teens that now have health issues related to their vaping. In this paper I am going to give a brief history of vaping and the mechanism of how the e-cigarette works. I will also explore how the manufacturers are exploiting their target audience, middle and high school students, by making the products seem healthier than smoking cigarettes and making the advertisements visually appealing. I will also be addressing the health implications. Schools are also providing education and utilizing vaping prevention initiatives.
The first patent of the e-cigarette was given to Joseph Robinson in 1927. It was never advertised and there is no clear cut evidence that a prototype was even made. Other people had created other versions of the e-cigarette. One, by Herbert Gilbert, was patented in 1965 and he never advertised it but did have prototypes. In 1979 Phil Ray and his personal physician Norman Jacobson did create the first commercialized version of the e-cigarette. This version was not electronic but depended upon the evaporation of the nicotine. The device did not go anywhere but the inventors did coin the verb “vape”. In the 1990’s there were numerous patents for nicotine inhaler apparatuses by inventors and tobacco companies. Few resembled the modern e-cigarette that is on the market now. A major tobacco company requested that the FDA approve an early version of an e-cigarette around 1998. They were denied on the grounds that it was not an approved drug delivery device. It has been theorized that this is the reason that no further attempts to commercialize the e-cigarette arose again until the early 2000’s. The re-emergence of the e-cigarette was in 2003 and originated from China. From 2003 until now the e-cigarette has gone through many changes and uses. It was deemed useful for those to quit smoking cigarettes, less harmful, not useful to help people quit smoking and it banned in several countries (“A Historical Timeline of Electronic Cigarettes”, 2019).
E-cigarettes use nicotine, chemicals, and flavorings that are heated by battery and produce an aerosol. The added ingredients are heated and then inhaled into the persons lungs. When the individual exhales, the aerosol can also be breathed in by the surrounding bystanders. They can also be used to partake in other drugs via inhalation (“Quick Facts on the Risks of E-Cigarettes for Kids, Teens, And Young Adults”, 2019).
So far, studies have shown that the different flavors have made the e-cigarette more appealing to our youth. Many youth have reported that they started using the e-cigarettes due to the variety of flavors and the sleek advertising that has been used. Lower cost of the product verses cost of cigarettes is also a factor in usage by middle and high school students. The use if these products have also risen due to the fact that the youth feel that are less harmful than traditional cigarettes. The widespread marketing targets the high and middles schoolers via social media. This also makes it seem less harmful that it actually is (“Quick Facts on the Risks of E-Cigarettes for Kids, Teens, And Young Adults”, 2019). One example is the “diffuser” that promotes sleep. This product uses melatonin, lavender, and chamomile. This is promoted via Instagram. It has been noted that because “something doesn’t taste like tobacco doesn’t mean it is safe”,Konkel (2017). It has been shown that flavors, for example cinnamon, can be more harmful when heated and inhaled. A suggestion has been made to eliminate all flavorings could be one way of dissuading our youth from trying e-cigarettes (Konkel, 2017).
The health risks of vaping are very prominent in the media. It has been noted that among those who vape, they have noted bleeding mouths and throats. These areas seemed like they were also slow to heal. It has been shown that vaping inflames the cells in the mouth that can lead to gum disease. Gum disease has the potential to damage the tissue surrounding teeth. This can lead to tooth loss. Research over the last few months has shown that vaping can impair a person’s immunity, leading to “smoker’s cough and slow healing sores. There are also potentially harmful things in e-cigarettes. Some substances that are in e-cigarettes are meant to be ingested and not inhaled. The mucosa of the stomach and intestines are meant to absorb these substances, lung tissue does not have that function and it can cause harm to that tissue. Another point, with the intensity of vaping, it makes it harder for the lungs to repair the damage that has been done. It has been shown that there can be many chemicals that are harmful in the vaping devices. One of these is formaldehyde and acetaldehyde. It has also shown tiny particles of metal. More specifically nickel, chromium and manganese. Even though these metals occur naturally in nature, when inside the body nickel and chromium can cause cancer and manganese can impair the nervous system. It is evident that more research is needed to fully explore the long term health effects of vaping (Konkel, 2017). The other component in e-cigarettes is nicotine. Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine which is addictive. It has been shown that nicotine harms the developing brain. Normally the brain continues to develop until the age of 25. Specifically, the parts of the brain that are harmed include the parts that control mood, impulse control, attention and learning. By using nicotine at a young age may increase the likelihood of future addiction. Another face to ponder, 50% of all calls to poison control regarding to e-cigarettes are for children 5 years old and younger. You can be poisoned by breathing, swallowing, or absorbing the e-cigarette fluid via the skin. Using e-cigarettes seems to be the gateway to future cigarette smoking amongst teens and you adults (“Quick Facts on the Risks of E-Cigarettes for Kids, Teens, And Young Adults”, 2019).
With the rise of vaping in schools, administration and educators are now attempting to educate the student and also their parents about the dangers of vaping. Giving information and education has been shown to be a better approach than punishment. We need to alter the perception that vaping is harmless. One of the educational tool used is from a nonprofit CATCH My Breath. It provides schools free curriculum for high and middle schoolers about the perils of vaping and the effects on the human body. Another approach used by educators is a social and emotional learning(SEL) method. This incorporates problem solving, self regulation and communication that can help the students when they feel peer pressure to vape. This method is used in connection with Tobacco Use Prevention Education (TUPE). When a student has been found vaping, a TUPE trained staff member will talk with the student to try to help them figure out why they were vaping and to help them make better future choices. Schools are also using vape detectors in the restrooms and having the students face stern consequences for vaping. They are also helping students start anti-vaping educational programs geared towards their peers and creating school wide public service announcements to be used during the morning announcements (Korbey, 2018).
In conclusion, vaping or e-cigarette usage is very prevalent in the middle and high school scene. The centers for Disease Control and the Prevention, as of October 2019, has had recorded more than 1,600 lung injuries and over 34 confirmed deaths (Treisman, 2019).The students have mistakenly been lead to believe that inhaling vapors into your lungs is relatively harmless. They do not realize that inhaling seeming innocuous and all natural ingredients is somehow safer than nicotine. This is untrue. It is also a fact that most e-cigarettes do have nicotine as an ingredient. The flavors just make it seem less harmful. Even parents have no idea about how harmful they can be. They are still less harmful that traditional cigarettes, just less harmful. The marketing tools used to target the youth make them curious and lull them into a false sense of security. The pods are cheaper, easy to order online, and can be easily hidden (Korbey, 2018). A push to educate the students and their parents seem to be the way to go. Prevention is the key and it is a lot easier than treatment. Schools and peers can play a huge role in prevention and that can potentially save lives. Vigilance is still key and helping students make good long term choices with the knowledge to back it will still help in the long run.
- A Historical Timeline of Electronic Cigarettes(2019). Retrieved from http://www.casaa.org/historical-timeline-of-electronic-cigarettes/
- Konkel, L. (2017). Concerns explode over new health risks of vaping. Retrieved from https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/article/concerns-explode-over-new-health-risks-vaping
- Korbey, H. (2018). Schools Respond to the Rise of Student Vaping. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/article/schools-respond-rise-student-vaping
- Treisman, R. (2019). Want To Get Rid Of Your Vaping Device? The DEA Will Take It. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/10/25/773105201/want-to-get-rid-of-your-vaping-device-the-dea-will-take-it
- Quick Facts on the Risks of E-cigarettes for Kids, Teens, and Young Adults(2019). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/Quick-Facts-on-the-Risks-of-E-cigarettes-for-Kids-Teens-and-Young-Adults.html
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