Vape Nation:  An Epidemic

The truth about vapes.

Have you been getting whiffs of cotton candy seemingly everywhere you go recently?  Well, sorry to break it to you, but that’s not really cotton candy… That would be the smell of vape, ladies and gentlemen.


“The smell is a dead giveaway,” says Mr. Mason, the Vice Principal of Herrin High School, who has become far too familiar with vape culture among the students.  But this problem isn’t just unique to HHS, vaping has become common everywhere. “Even if you Google ‘vaping in high school,’” states Mason, “you’ll see how chronic it’s become.”  Mason’s opinion abides in fact, as the FDA just this week announced that teen usage of vaping devices has reached “an epidemic proportion.”


The earliest form of what are today known as “vapes” were e-cigarettes, which first appeared on the market in the US in 2007, and quickly became a popular alternative to smoking.  By now, however, they’ve become a source of recreation and risk-taking among high school students, a demographic among who the use of e-cigs grew 900% from 2011 to 2015 according to Science News for  In fact, students as young as ages 12 and 13 are nowadays more likely to engage in vaping rather than smoking.


This nationwide phenomenon has recently come under federal scrutiny.  On Wednesday, September 12, the FDA formally allotted producers of popular vaping and e-cigarette devices only 60 days to provide the agency with evidence that they are capable of keeping their products out of the hands of minors, threatening to remove these flavored products from the market if makers fail to do so.  It has also issued warning letters and in some cases even hefty fines to major retailers who have sold e-cigarettes to minors, which is illegal under federal law.


Why have these numbers skyrocketed in the past few years?  “I think it’s just a fad,” infers Mason, “if it wasn’t vaping it’d be chew, or cigarettes, or something else”; and many students agree.  In fact, out of the four students at our school who use nicotine products such as vapes/Juuls who were interviewed, all four of them either cite friends or other social influences as to why they either initially purchased a vape or have continued their usage.  


“I don’t know if psychologically it’s as addictive as cigarettes,” Mason added, “or if it’s just a trend.”  This is another example of a statement with which many students would agree, since no one really seems to truly know whether or not this vaping products, often sold with juices which are available in a wide variety of exotic and fruity flavors specifically targeted to sell to minors, are as harmless as some claim they are, or if they are just the newest dangerous, addictive, detrimental product available to curious young consumers.  


This in itself is a large part of the problem, no one, those who regularly vape and research professionals included, know exactly what the consequences of this relatively new technology might be, besides the already well-established consequences of nicotine usage.  There has not been enough time since these alarming products have gained public attention to complete any in-depth scientific studies, such as exist for behaviors like smoking and drinking.


However, some consumers of vaporizer products have exhibited bleeding mouths and throats and severe cases of gum disease which could even lead to tooth loss, as reported by Science News for  Some experts have even found evidence that vaping could lead to bronchitis and might interfere with the immune system, leaving consumers much more susceptible to illness and disease.


Most concerning, researchers have found amounts of metals in vapor fluid, most mention-able being nickel, chromium, and manganese.  These same researchers have warned that metals, along with the mixture of chemicals which make up vapor fluid, might be cancerous, leading to a much broader slew of health issues.


Sadly, these items were initially sold with the intention of providing smokers and potential smokers with a healthier, safer alternative.  They were never meant to create an entirely new generation of addicts, which is what they’ve done by loading theses new devices with absurdly high levels of nicotine.  Studies show that teens who try vaping are more likely to try smoking cigarettes, which causes the deaths of 480,000 people in the US alone in an average year. Reports also show that nine out of ten adult smokers tried their first cigarette while they were still an adolescent, meaning that those who vape are putting themselves at a much higher risk of becoming a cigarette smoker.


Much less harmful than the health risks, yet still a risk of vaping, are the consequences of possession and use of a vape if caught on school grounds.  The punishments for such an act, classified as a class III infraction in the Student Handbook, are determined on a sliding scale and include anything from a verbal reprimand to recommendation for expulsion from school, not to mention the guaranteed confiscation of the prohibited device.


Ultimately, even though many of the results of vaping are not yet scientific facts, the evidence doesn’t foreshadow a positive outcome; and the consequences and punishments which have been proven are far from good.  Therefore, it is advisable to stay away from these addictive devices, and prevent from becoming just another statistic.


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