Rebecca Boss

Recent deaths prove the potential consequences of vaping.

You walk out into the hall, searching for a bathroom. As your desperation rises, you enter the first door on the left and a thick fog rises from the stall in the corner. What could it be? Is it a fire in its smallest stage? Is it a fog machine someone forgot to turn off? Is it even real? The truth is, the fog that clouds both your vision and your mind is vaping.

Vaping has become a popular trend among high school students, so much so that a Change.org petition was created for the president of the United States to “remove toilets from the Juul rooms,” and as of October it already had 2,696 signatures. The trend of vaping has become so rapid and widespread that sales of Juuls increased by over 600 percent in 2017 alone. This raises the question of why Juuling, and vaping overall, is so popular.

Before we explore the prevalence of vaping products, it’s important that we figure out what a vaping product is and the effects that it can have on the human body. The Center on Addiction describes vaping as “the act of inhaling and exhaling an aerosol, often referred to as vapor, which is produced by an e-cigarette or similar device.” This vapor is often confused for water vapor. 

To answer the question as to why Juuls in particular have become so popular, we should break down what’s actually in a Juul Pod. There are five main ingredients, the first three being glycol, propylene glycol, and benzoic acid, which are all additives typically used in preserving food. That’s why the FDA has listed them safe for consumption in small quantities. However, these ingredients are not the true dangers of vaping.

Flavorings, the most controversial of the ingredients, can be comprised of a multitude of chemicals. A 2015 study from the University of Rochester found that many of the flavorings in vapes cause inflammatory tissue damage and pulmonary toxicity, meaning that when they come into contact with tissues in the body, they generate toxins within the lungs, which can be fatal. However, many consumers defend the product stating that it is meant to help people quit smoking, which was the intended use of most vaping products. Maybe I just miss the point—maybe mango-flavored diseases are more enjoyable.

However, the most common chemical across all vapes is nicotine, a substance about as addictive as cocaine or heroin, according to Surgeon General Regina Benjamin. The National Center for Biotechnology Information stated that when ingested through external means (e.g. smoking), nicotine can increase blood pressure, increase heart rate, narrow arteries which deny access of blood to the brain, and harden the arterial walls, which can lead to heart attacks and often death. 

These addictive and dangerous ingredients all coalesce into an event that shocked the nation: The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recorded the deaths of 18 teenagers in 15 states as of October 2019 and linked them all to vaping. This event shocked the nation so badly that the U.S. government has proposed a full-on ban on flavored vaping products as a response. This reaction has made some fearful as the ban may be invasive toward businesses that are honest about the products they sell, and they argue that it should be the buyer’s choice if they wish to ingest substances that are harmful to their health. This, however, is a thinly veiled guise to remove the obvious greed that many vaping companies have, especially when it comes to selling vapes to children. The sale has become easy to proliferate as the popularity of vapes has increased a tremendous amount, causing the national health crisis we see today.

However, other factors also play into the rise in popularity of vaping. Another study from the NCBI on the rise of drug usage in American high schools showed that two of the most common reasons that students use narcotics are “obtaining social rewards” and “conformity,” with other auxiliary reasons listed including “to fit in with a social group I like.” 

When you combine a teenager’s desire to fit in with nicotine, you get a national health crisis. At the same time, a corporation is becoming extremely wealthy by selling addictive chemicals to minors. This is the harsh reality of vaping. Companies profit by essentially selling poison to children, and, as a result, their sales skyrocket. The importance of understanding the popularity of vaping among adolescents is crucial to understanding how any drug becomes popular and in preventing another nationwide health catastrophe like this one. 

So when you eventually have to go back to the Juul rooms, just know that the fog coming from the stall is a sure sign that the national vaping epidemic is still in full force.