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Let's Talk About Vaping

Vapes are battery-operated E-cigarettes released in the early 2000s in China. Since then, vapes have taken off and spread in popularity. Vaping works by heating a flavoured liquid within its cartridge, and many people use it as a bridge to break their smoking addiction; however, contrary to popular belief, vaping also has severe health impacts and is just as addictive as regular cigarettes. In recent years vaping has become a household item, becoming as addictive as our mobile phones. It's rare to find someone who hasn't tried it.

So What Exactly Is A Vape?

Vapes are an e-cigarette operated on batteries to heat liquid and produce vapour, which is then inhaled like a cigarette. The liquid within vapes often contains nicotine; however, there are many nicotine-free liquid vapes and cannabis options. The liquids within vapes are flavoured, making them a sweet addiction with many options, making it even easier to start an addiction! Packaged & sold in colourful designs, vapes are often marketed to younger generations, with primary school students even getting their hands on them.

Why People Vape

There are a few reasons vaping suddenly became so popular. First, they were used as a tool to break smokingaddictions. Second, smokers incorrectly believed vapes to be less harmful than regular cigarettes. Vapes are also much cheaper than traditional cigarettes, taste better, and are more socially acceptable. Also, vaping is permitted in many places where cigarettes are not. And although these all sounded great for smokers, vaping made having an addiction moreaccessible. On top of it, vapes have become an accessory or trend, where people who have never smoked (cigarettes) are vaping just to stay on trend.

How Are Vapes Harmful?

The main difference between cigarettes and vapes is that cigarettes are used by burning tobacco which causes smoke-related conditions. In contrast, vapes just heat a liquid, which was initially believed to be less harmful. However, studies are beginning to show that vapes may be just as damaging as cigarettes. At the minute, one of the main reasons vapes are so dangerous is the lack of knowledge surrounding them. The Food And Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet released any standards for vapes or have any firm studies; however, researchers have found many toxic chemicals and elements in vapes, often formed after the liquid is heated.

Here's some things we do know:

  • The nicotine in 1 vape can = 50 cigarettes. Depending on the size of the vape and nicotine strength, it can be much higher
  • Many vapes contain nicotine making them addictive
  • Vaping has been linked to lung disease
  • Vapes can contain the same harmful chemicals found in cleaning products, nail polish remover, weed killer and bug spray

Some of the chemicals found are as follows:

  • Nicotine – an addictive substance that negatively impacts adolescent brain development
  • Carcinogens- chemicals known to cause cancer, including acetaldehyde and formaldehyde
  • Acrolein – a herbicide often used to kill weeds, can cause irreversible lung damage
  • Propylene glycol – a common food additive; also used to make things like antifreeze, paint solvent, and artificial smoke in fog machines
  • Diacetyl – a chemical linked to a lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans, aka "popcorn lung."
  • Diethylene glycol – a toxic chemical used in antifreeze (linked to lung disease)
  • Heavy metals such as nickel, tin, lead
  • Cadmium – a toxic metal found in traditional cigarettes that causes breathing problems and disease
  • Benzene – a volatile organic compound (VOC) found in car exhaust
  • Ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs

It's crucial to remember vapes are relatively new, and research has only just started.

How Vapes Impact Our Health & Wellbeing

Besides the obvious impacts, such as addiction, vaping also has serious implications for various areas of our wellbeing.

Heart Health

Following from these chemicals, there are a few related health impacts vaping can cause. Firstly nicotine has been found in even vapes, which state they do not contain the substance; nicotine raises our blood pressure and spikes our adrenaline. This then further increases our heart rate and increases our risk of a heart attack.

Lung Health

Our lungs are also highly impacted by the use of vapes. As humans, we shouldn't really be inhaling anything besides oxygen, so you can imagine the damage dozens of chemicals can cause. Vapes, like cigarettes, can cause many respiratory problems, such as trouble breathing, coughing, wheezing, and asthma attacks. In severe cases, hospitals have seen individuals in their only 20's with collapsed lungs due to vaping.

Brain Health

A person's brain usually continues to develop until age 25, and nicotine in adolescence can permanently harm the parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood and impulse control. Seeing vapes are most used and marketed to people under 30, the impact vaping would have on cognitive function is hugely negative.

Mental Health

Vapes can leave young people at increased risk of depression and anxiety, as the nicotine found within vapes can impact our cognitive function, and begin to control our moods.

The Stats

In recent years, lung injuries and deaths have been associated with vaping. In February 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed 2,807 e-cigarette or vaping-associated lung injury cases and 68 deaths attributed to that condition. Since then, we have seen more cases of collapsed lungs and repository problems in individuals too young to face such serious health impacts.

The Current Vaping Verdict

Studies have only just begun looking deeply into vaping and its impacts on our population's health & wellbeing. However, the already discovered findings are enough to put the health industry into action. With dozens upon dozens of harmful chemicals and elements produced and inhaled by vapes, the Australian Government has already included actions against vaping in their 2023-24 budget to ban vaping and only allow it over the counters at pharmacies via prescription.  

Popularised as a tool to overcome smoking addictions, vaping has now become a trend and fashion accessory marketed to younger generations and easily accessible. However, vaping doesn't seem to be the positive and useful tool it was initially created to be, posing just as many, if not more, health threats to our population's wellbeing than the usual cigarette.

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