2 years ago, I rarely heard any discussion of vaping. Now, it is seemingly everywhere, with vape shops appearing in strip malls everywhere and pop-up displays sitting in convenience stores. I’ve been wondering; How did vaping become so common? And how is this affecting people?
So I’ve been doing some reading on this, and I thought I would share it.
First of all, what is vaping?
Vaping or e-cigarettes work by heating a liquid, typically containing propylene, glycol, nicotine, and flavoring. This liquid is heated by a battery powered coil which ‘vaporizes’ the liquid, creating an aerosol (small particles suspended in air and vapor), that can be breathed in. While the technology for e-cigarettes and vaping has been around for decades already, it has not received much traction until the last 7 years, where the percentages of smokers who had tried vaping was 2% in 2010, but jumped to 30% in 2012. Its popularity has continued to rise since then, with a current estimate of 1 in 4 high school students vaping. When vapes came into the market they claimed to be the ‘go-to tool’ for smokers to kick their habit for good. But how has this been working?
In my reading I saw 2 dominant trends, one seemingly positive and one very troubling;
1) Vaping can help people quit smoking.
2) Youth are getting addicted to vaping.
Vaping as Smoking Cessation
With smoking being the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States, I think it deserves a lot of attention. According to the CDC, in 2016 15.5% of Americans currently smoked. This meant that the total number of smokers in America was 37.8 million people, greater than the total population of Canada. The percentage of Canadians regularly smoking exceeded our American neighbors with 16.9% over 12 years of age smoking regularly. These numbers are staggering when you look at the large population of people who are putting themselves at much higher risks for strokes, lung cancer, and coronary heart disease.
E-cigarettes look to be a tool that may be effective for those quitting by giving an alternative source of nicotine, without the harmful effects of smoke while still providing a similar sensation with vapor. A systematic review of the use of vaping for smoking cessation indicated that there was a positive relationship between e-cigarette use and smoking cessation but suggested that there was more research necessary to validate this claim. Other more recent research has shown that using a vape was not any more helpful for quitting smoking than not using any device at all. While the long-term effects of vaping are largely unknown, it is generally accepted that vaping is less harmful than smoking. While it may be better than smoking and possibly useful for quitting, it is clear that vaping is not harmless. Due to its relatively recent introduction to mass markets, there is not extensive research on long-term health effects and there is a need for more research, as there have been many indications of negative effects with vaping.
Teens and E-Cigs
The second, more troubling, trend is how e-cigarettes are becoming increasingly popular with youth who had never smoked. While e-cigarettes may be less harmful than smoking, they are still harmful, especially for youth. One of the largest concerns with this is how youth who vape are much more likely to later take on smoking as a regular habit.
While not all vape liquids include nicotine, the current industry leader in vaping (over 70% sales in the vape market), JUUL has nicotine in loads. This is partly because JUUL uses nicotine salts in its e-liquid, rather than free-base nicotine, meaning that the nicotine is less harsh to breathe in and it more closely matches the nicotine ‘hit’ someone experiences when they smoke as the nicotine from nicotine salts is quickly absorbed into the body. JUUL designed its product with its high level of nicotine and quickness of delivery, to closer match a smoking experience for those quitting, but this also makes it highly addicting to those who have not previously smoked. It is estimated that with JUUL, users are getting a concentration of 59 mg/ml of nicotine. To put this in context, the EU has legislation limiting the concentration of nicotine in a product to 20mg/ml, or nearly 1/3rd of JUUL’s regular nicotine amount.
Along with being highly addictive to teens, the sleek styling and discreet size of JUUL have made it highly popular among young adults and teens. A 2017 survey showed 8% of American Young Adults (Age 15-24) had used JUUL in the previous 30 days, and if it continued to follow its trajectory it will have risen since then. This is troubling, because most young adults who are vaping or ‘JUULing’ are not using it as a smoking cessation aid but are starting with vape. Studies have shown as well that those who have already vaped are more likely to experiment with smoking and become smokers in the long term. The concern with JUUL and nicotine dependence among teens and young adults has caught the eye of the FDA as it has said, “e-cigarette use among youth has hit epidemic proportions”. As well the FDA has issued warnings to JUUL and other e-cigarette companies asserting that they need to be better at keeping e-cigarettes out of the hands of teens. Its crazy how quickly ‘Juuling’ has become popular among teens, and alarming to look at some potential long-term effects are of this in upcoming years.
In my research on vaping I have become more excited about how FÜM can truly Redefine Health for the millions of smokers and vapers in the world. While many view vaping as the ‘healthier’ alternative to smoking, FÜM together with essential oils is the healthier alternative to vaping that can enable individuals to get completely away from nicotine dependence and enhance their healthy lifestyle with no smoke or vape. We’re excited to continue refining our approach in regard to this and hearing from you about how FÜM is helping you leave vaping and smoking behind.
If you would like to learn more about how FÜM can help with nicotine addiction click here.