Ashlee Geraghty

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E-cigarettes and vaping: addiction reimagined

American youth have become largely uninterested in most traditional tobacco products. With the introduction of electronic cigarettes, many people have abandoned tobacco products and are now turning to a more modern way of “smoking.”

E-cigarettes, often referred to as vapes, range in size, flavor and ingredients. Typically, e-juice contains different levels of nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerin, water and various flavorings.

UNC Charlotte researchers surveyed 10,000 middle and high schoolers in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area and found that while the usage of alcohol and tobacco products has decreased, marijuana and e-cigarettes have become more popular.

The study revealed that only 3 percent of respondents had smoked a cigarette within 30 days prior to taking the survey. However, the results for e-cigarettes were almost four times that. Nearly 13 percent of surveyed students said they drink, which is down from almost 16 percent in 2015. More than 13 percent of students reported using marijuana.

A study published in the Journal of American College Health found that 29 percent of college students vape and it is especially popular among males.

Photo by Pooja Pasupula

One benefit of the rising popularity of e-cigarettes may be the large national decline in cigarette usage across all age groups. The Center for Disease Control reports that as of 2016, about 15.5% of adults smoke, a decrease from the 20.9% of adults in 2005. Tobacco companies have picked up on this trend and now advertise their e-cigarettes as safer than regular cigarettes. However, many are unaware of the long-term effects of vaping.

UNC Charlotte Health Education Specialist Deirdre Feeney told the Niner Times, “You can put all sorts of things into a JUUL or an e-cigarette. Somebody who uses tobacco in the form of an e-cigarette may not be getting as much exposure to chemicals, but…they still use chemicals for the flavoring.”

There is a growing body of research on the fairly new trend of e-cigarette usage. According to the Center for Disease Control, e-cigarettes are harmful for “youth, young adults, pregnant women, or adults who do not currently use tobacco products.”

E-juice often contains cancer-causing chemicals and tiny particles that reach deep into the lungs. However, e-cigarette products generally contain fewer harmful chemicals than do tobacco products. In addition, children and adults have been poisoned by swallowing, breathing or absorbing e-cigarette liquid through their skin or eyes.

What people, especially high school and college students, tend to overlook is the addictiveness of nicotine and the effects it can have on the body. E-cigarettes contain different levels of nicotine; some even have more than traditional cigarettes. Nicotine can damage adolescent brain development, which continues through the college-age years. It is also toxic to developing fetuses.

UNC Charlotte Policy 707 stipulates that smoking and use of tobacco products is prohibited within all university buildings and within 100 feet of any university building. The policy was extended in 2017 to include vaping and e-cigarette usage.

College campuses have worked to acknowledge potential problems with addiction and are coming up with creative solutions to help students. UNC Charlotte’s Center for Wellness Promotion, located in the Student Health Center, offers a six week tobacco cessation service free to all students. This program is voluntary and uses different techniques that assist people struggling with addiction, whether it’s cigarettes or e-cigarettes.

Students who feel they would benefit from this program are encouraged to reach out to the Center for Wellness Promotion.

 

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