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Interest, addiction, withdrawl: Amidst recent news, students put down their vaping devices

October 9, 2019

Two female U-High students each a former vaper, agreed to speak with the Midway on the condition that their names were changed to protect their anonymity.

Here are the stories of “Nicole” and “Bridget.”

“I was shaking. All I could think about was taking another hit,” Nicole said about being addicted to nicotine through a vaping device. “I’ve tried quitting a total of seven times and I really only made it through when I told my friends to physically hold me back from doing anything.”

According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey, high school vaping increased by 78% from 2017 to 2018 — from 11.7% to 20.8%.

“People think it looks cute. People are like ‘Oh wow, this is so cool.’ And it’s so easy, such easy access, I mean you can hide it anywhere,” Nicole said. “It’s so easy not to get caught because you can just put it in your pocket.”

Like Nicole, Bridget also uses a vaping device. The leading brand name, Juul, is so common it’s become a verb for using the device.

Quitting has not been easy. Bridget mentioned that vaping’s prevalence has made it difficult to quit.

With the recent deaths and illnesses it was just kinda a shock to the system, ‘cause I always thought of it as a long-term drawback. Like smoking cigarettes, maybe I’ll get lung cancer when I’m 70. But this is very instant. Like, I could die now, when I am 17.”

“I’ve been dependent on it for a couple of years now so just a shock to the system. And especially when it’s so common and people use it everywhere, it’s just kinda hard to escape from,” Bridget said.

To reduce the prevalence of tobacco products, 2009 Congress passed the “Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act” allowing the FDA to regulate tobacco products. Vaping has just begun to have regulations. The act mainly affected “Big Tobacco,” or the five biggest tobacco companies in the world.

This past June, San Francisco followed the lead of Congress and began the process of banning all Juuls and e-Cigarette products.

“I think that after the Big Tobacco thing there was an immediate drawback from cigarettes and everyone was, like, ‘OK, cigarettes kill, cigarettes are gross and that’s just kinda how our generation was brought up,” Bridget said.

Unlike cigarettes, the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes remain relatively unknown according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It just kinda shows that all the stuff we read that, ‘Oh yeah, there is not a lot of safety checks or there is not a lot of research that has been done with vaping yet,” Nicole said. “I felt like at first when I started, it started as like, ‘No they wouldn’t put this out on the market unless it was safe.’ And it turned out it’s not.”

Bridget and Nicole both believe that people are more inclined to vape rather than smoke cigarettes because there is less conclusive research to point to long-term health issues.

Additionally, Bridget said she chooses to vape rather than smoke cigarettes because she prefers the taste of her Juul.

In total, there have been 805 lung injury case and 12 deaths in the United States due to vaping; 22% of patients are 18- to 21-year olds, and 16% of patients are under 18 years old.

“I think there have been so few cases that people are like, ‘Well that’s just a freak accident’ rather than if you are dealing with heavy drugs, then, you know, this could kill you here and now,” Bridget said. Despite the recent news coverage, some of Bridget’s friends continue to vape.

Vaping is highly addictive and is unsafe for kids, teens, and young adults according to the CDC.

“The problem with nicotine is that its half-life is so short that you need it. You put it down and you need it right away,” Bridget said. She mentioned a study that she read that showed that nicotine is more addictive than heroin. “It really rewires your brain into thinking you need it.”

Another health risk is that many people who have vaped, including Bridget and Nicole, said that they did not always know what was in their vaping pod.

“A lot of pods you can refill and so a lot of stuff is fake on the market, which is really terrifying,” Nicole said, “but for me, for a while it was like, if I’m desperate enough, I’m going to do it anyway. And that’s when I figured out I needed to stop.”

Both Bridget and Nicole have stopped vaping due to a number of reasons. Chief among them is the recent news coverage of people reportedly dying and having lung injury and illnesses due to their vaping habit.

“With the recent deaths and illnesses it was just kinda a shock to the system, ’cause I always thought of it as a long-term drawback. Like smoking cigarettes, maybe I’ll get lung cancer when I’m 70. But this is very instant. Like, I could die now, when I am 17.”

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