Walking around campus you’ve probably noticed a student or two exhaling a large cloud of smoke from what appears to be a pen. The gadget you’re looking at is an electronic cigarette (e-cig), a small battery-powered device that uses small, refillable cartridges of liquid that typically contain nicotine, chemicals and various flavorings.
In a survey conducted by Medical News Daily, 3.7 percent of smokers have made the full switch over to “vaping” as well as 12.6 percent have tried the new form of smoking at some point. The reasons for this transition from traditional cigarettes to this new technological form can be attributed to various reasons.
For instance, according to a 2015 expert review from Public Health England, e-cigs were found to be 95 percent less harmful than cigarettes. This doesn’t make them harmless, however; while e-cigs may not burn tobacco filling your lungs with deadly carbon monoxide, the vapor inhaled still contains various chemicals as well as nicotine, an addictive drug that was once used as an insecticide for bugs.
An interesting aspect about the culture of vaping is that many of its members were attracted to the habit for unexpected reasons. An example being engineering technology major Kevin Robinson who got into vaping for the fun of it.
“I got my first e-cig about two years ago because I saw a lot of people on the internet using them to perform tricks with the smoke they produce,” Robinson said.
The dragon, the waterfall, the tornado, and blowing O’s are just a few of the many colorful names of the various maneuvers vapesters have coined and perfected. Robinson’s e-cig juice surprisingly contains zero nicotine, a choice which can no doubt make his hobby immeasurably healthier.
However, very little is known about the long-term effects of the inhalation of vapor. The liquid itself, which is heated and transformed into vapor within each electronic cigarette, is made up of several chemicals including Propylene glycol and Glycerin. The former of which is a common chemical for creating artificial fog at concerts and has been known to cause lung and eye irritation, whereas the latter is actually an FDA-approved ingredient for use within food and cosmetics.
Former Representative of the FDA Neal Benowitz, MD., has said, “We don’t know what happens if someone inhales large amounts of these chemicals over the long term. This is really unknown.”
Being a relatively brand-new indulgence in American society, one should be cautious when taking part in an activity where the long-term health effects may be unknown. It wasn’t until 1957 before the U.S. Public Health Service’s official position stood that smoking tobacco directly had a relationship with the development of lung cancer.
Human beings all have our vices, but it’s important to keep in mind the consequences as some are more well-known than others. Before joining the vape culture, consider the unknown. If you have and still can’t pull yourself away. Vape on.
– Caleb Parish, Opinion Editor