Vaping… The New Look of Nicotine Addiction

By Lillian Cronin
First published by The Milton Times, November 2018

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) has determined that electronic cigarettes have recently surpassed conventional cigarettes as the most commonly used tobacco product among youth. An electronic cigarette, commonly referred to as “e-cigarette”, is a battery-powered vaporizer which simulates the action and sensation of smoking. E-cigarettes are also referred to as vape pens, vapes, e-cigs, e-hookahs, e-pipes, tanks, mods, or ENDS (electronic nicotine delivery systems). Sometimes they are referred to by their brand names (ie, JUUL; BO; Blu...).

Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the aerosol, or odorless vapor, produced by an e-cigarette or similar device. The aerosol can contain harmful and potentially harmful substances, including nicotine, flavoring linked to serious lung disease, cancer-causing chemicals, and heavy metals such as tin, nickel and lead. E-cigarettes are made in different sizes, types, and colors. Some are made to look like regular cigarettes, pipes, or cigars. Some resemble pens, USB sticks, and other everyday items. Those which resemble small electronic devices are usually compact to allow for discreet carrying and use, such as at home or in schools.

The flavors and design of e-cigarettes are made especially appealing to teens.

Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine in the pre-filled pods or e- liquids that the user adds to the device. The nicotine in these products is derived from tobacco. According to the Surgeon General’s 2016 report, “...Nicotine can damage a teenager’s developing brain and lead to addiction.”

E-cigarettes have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a smoking cessation device, although they may potentially benefit adult smokers who are not pregnant, if used as a complete substitute for regular cigarettes.

Vaping devices can also be used to vape other substances, such as marijuana. According to a recent study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s “Pediatrics”, approximately 1 in 11 youths vape marijuana.

The “Make Smoking History” site at MPH warns that it is important that parents, educators, and other adults who work with youth understand what these products are and the potential risks of using them.

(Mary Cole, MPH, CHES-program coordinator of Greater Boston Tobacco-Free Community Partnership assisted in providing information for the above article.)

Other resources:

  • Smoke-free Teen is a website provided by the US Department of Health and Human Services;

  • “E- Cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General, 2016”;

  • www.getoutraged.org;

  • www.makesmokinghistory.org