27 Oct Vaping’s Troubling Popularity

The Camel and Marlboro signs in our local convenience stores have been replaced by a new kid in town: vaping. Also known as e-cigarettes, these nicotine delivery devices have been marketed as a smoking cessation aid, as an alternative to smoking, and as a solution to the second-hand smoke problem. They look good on paper, but troubling evidence has been turning up as these devices gain popularity, suggesting that vaping isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

How E-Cigarettes Work

E-cigarettes seem to solve a lot of the problems. They contain a very simple mix of ingredients: synthetic liquid nicotine, propylene glycol (theatrical smoke), and optional flavoring. This is a benefit over regular cigarettes, which contain dozens of known carcinogens, along with other chemicals. The e-cigarette is a heating device, that when activated, delivers a dose of nicotine to the user, along with an authentic feeling puff of smoke.

E-cigarettes range in shape, size, and style. Many of them are about the same size as regular cigarettes, while others look like cigars or pipes. They can be purchased online or at local smoke shops or convenience stores. Refillable cartridges are available from the same sources.

A Cessation Aid?

Some e-cigarette manufacturers have happily marketed the devices as a cessation aid, while others have shied away from the title, but there’s not enough research available on the products to this point to support either claim. Early studies have actually shown that vaping can lead to an increase in smoking and can act as a catalyst for addiction. Because vaping doesn’t put off any harmful second hand smoke, many smokers chose to use e-cigarettes in places where regular smoking is not allowed. This means they’re getting more nicotine into their bodies over the course of a day, which increases their cravings and addiction to the substance. This leads to more cigarette smoking overall, since cigarettes are a cheaper way to relieve a nicotine craving.

A Younger Crowd

Another big concern about e-cigarettes is that they are appealing to the high-school crowd and younger individuals, with the numbers of underage users growing rapidly. E-cigarettes are easy for young people to obtain and they have a lower perceived risk than regular cigarettes do. E-cigarettes are just as addictive as their traditional counterparts, and once a nicotine habit is established, it can lead to smoking and other substance abuse issues. Experts are worried that vaping could be a new, widespread gateway drug, and that nicotine addiction numbers could begin soaring in the high school age group.

Mike Keenan is a Substance Use Disorder Counselor and Equine Specialist (EAGALA). He has worked in the field of substance abuse for the past 5 years, working in residential, out-patient, and in-patient treatment programs. The majority of his experience comes from supervisory and director-level positions. He is also enrolled at the University of Utah to complete a degree in Social Work. His areas of expertise are experiential therapy and metaphorical learning.

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