By CRISTINA JANNEY
Nicotine is still dangerous even if it doesn’t come from a cigarette.
Dr. Michelle Pope of Hays gave a lecture to Thomas More Prep-Marian Junior High students Friday about the dangers of vaping.
Not only is the nicotine you can consume through vaping dangerous, but so are other chemicals and heavy metals you take into your lungs when you vape.
Vaping liquids are loosely regulated by the federal government and 95 percent of the juices are made in China. This means the juices may have chemicals in them that are not listed on the label. In fact, a study of vaping juices found the majority of the juices that said they did not have nicotine in them in fact did contain nicotine, Pope said.
“I think that is kind of scary, because you really don’t know what is in there,” she said. “When we put stuff in liquid and we heat them up, they change, and you don’t really know what that is going to do.”
Common ingredients in vaping juice include nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerin (or some other solvent) and other additives. This can include arsenic, which is found in pesticides, and formaldehyde, which is used to preserve dead bodies and lab specimens. It also can contain heavy metals, such as nickel, tin, lead, chromium and cadmium. Cadmium, which is also found in batteries, can cause kidney failure and bone disease.
Vaping and smoking in teens can permanently stunt lung development.
The nicotine concentration you are receiving can vary depending on what liquid you buy and what delivery device you use.
Nicotine, specifically, can cause cancer, is addictive and damaging, especially to the adolescent brain. It can also cause heart attack and stroke.
Young people’s brains are not fully developed until they are 25. The second greatest period of brain development happens when you are a teenager and young adult. Because teens are developing connections in their brains more quickly, they can become addicted more quickly.
Nicotine also affects the limbic system, which governs memories and emotions. Nicotine can permanently lower impulse control. It can also affect attention and learning and increase risk of mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety.
Some research has indicated teens can become addicted to nicotine with use of less than half of a cigarette, Pope said.
“Most people would say a half cigarette — ‘That is not that big of a deal. I’ll just try it. My friends are here, and I don’t want to look silly.’ If you have a genetic predisposition or a brain that is highly triggered by (nicotine), it can be all it takes to become addicted,” Pope said.
“What do I mean by addicted? Your brain reminds you of that and that was good and fun. You should do that again. You think about it again and you want to do it again. You may argue you that you don’t want to do it again, but you end up doing it anyway. It does not mean you have to do it every day.”
Pope noted signs of addiction can include: craving an e-cigarette, feeling nervous without an e-cigarette and having trouble quitting vaping. She noted youth can vape as little as once a month and still be addicted.
E-cigarette use has risen dramatically since 2011, when only 1.5 percent of high school students reported vaping. In 2015 that had risen to more than 16 percent. In 2016, more than 2 million middle and high school students reported they had vaped in the last month.
“E-cigarettes, you say, ‘Oh, weren’t those designed to help people stop smoking?’ If that is the case, this is an interesting statement. More kids use them than adults,” she said. “You guys are the prime market. You are the prime target.”
Companies are marketing to youth. They have developed candy-flavored juices with bright packaging. Some of these include gummy worms and a flavor like Swedish Fish. About 80 percent of youth who try vaping for the first time use a flavored juice, Pope said.
“There is a whole lot of science behind why they do flavoring, but basically it gets your foot in the door,” she said. “Once your foot is in the door, they have got your money, because you are going to keep coming back.”
Even the vaping devices are geared toward kids. Delivery systems called JUULs look like USB drives and can easily be hidden in school supplies. JUUL refills often contain twice as much nicotine as standard vaping juices.
“Somethings that may seem really cool and seem like it may not hurt you, but you have to be very careful,” Pope said. “Sometimes the smallest things and the coolest-looking things are the sneakiest things.”
In addition to the dangers of using the vaping products, vaping devices have been known to explode. Last week, the first death linked directly to a defective vaping device was recorded. The vaping device exploded in the person’s face, killing the vaper and then setting the rest of the house on fire.
Calls to poison control for vaping fluid overdoses in children have also skyrocketed in recent years, Pope said. Vaping juice can be deadly if ingested orally by children younger than 6.