This is a student project from the 2021 Minds Inspired Journalism & Media Summer Camp:
In the last 17 years, the e-cigarette (vape) has become the most popular tobacco product among teens, according to the US FDA. The e-cigarette was created in
2003, to be an alternative to traditional smoking. It was also designed to help cure traditional tobacco addicts.
As previously stated in a Loop Cayman article, the national sales of e-cigarettes, other vaping devices and e-liquids have expanded nearly 1,400% over the past decade. Additionally, there are currently more than 460 brands of e-cigarettes and vaping devices and more than 7,700 flavors of e-liquids.
Side effects of vaping
According to vapingfacts.health.nz, the most common side effects associated with vaping include:
- Dry mouth and throat
- Shortness of breath
- Mouth and throat irritation
Nicotine, which is present in the e-liquid, is highly addictive, and mixed with other chemicals, can be extremely harmful. High doses of nicotine are extremely dangerous for those under the age of 18.
The Long term effects of vaping are still unknown, however, e-cigarettes have been linked to severe health problems, such as lung injuries, seizures, nicotine poisoning, and increased risk of stroke, which was reported by DrugWatch.com.
E-cigarette use data
In 2020, the National Drug Council (NDC) surveyed 3,748 students from both public and private schools. 29% of those students (1,000) said that vapes were their drug of choice. The average first age of use was 13 years old.
Acting NDC Director Brenda Watson told the Cayman Compass that the survey showed a shift from cigarettes to e-cigarettes.
“We believe this shift has resulted from several factors, such as a change in the public perception of cigarettes, along with the proven health problems associated with smoking,” Watson said in a Compass Interview.
Interview with a young teen
Russell, (17) whose name has been changed to protect his identity, told us that he was first introduced to vapes at the age of 14.
“Two years ago, I was at a friend’s house. My friend pulled out his vape. I knew what vapes were, but didn’t understand their purpose. He explained that it tastes like Mango. My curiosity got the better of me, and I asked to try it. The flavor of the vape was amazing, and like that, I was instantly hooked.”
Russell told us that he sourced the vapes from another teen, who would use a fake ID to purchase them at a local store.
“We found this person who would buy them from the vape shop, then, sell them to us for a markup. He would usually make $7-$10 a vape and had a lot of clients. If he wasn’t available, we would find someone to buy them for us and give them some extra money for doing that.
The negative side effects of vaping soon caught up with Russell, who shared all of the horrible side effects he experienced.
“The side effects have been horrible. Since I started to vape, my stomach has been in constant pain, I would get headaches when I didn’t have my vape and would be very lethargic. My grades at school slipped, and my relationship with my family became strained.
With the help of close friends and his family, Russell was able to quit vaping and has helped other friends quit.
“I had one friend who really helped me quit. He would always tell me that I am hanging around with the wrong crowd, which could lead to worse addictions in the future. I can now say that I am no longer vaping. My body feels better, and my grades have improved.”
How to resolve underaged vaping?
Underaged use of e-cigarettes has become a big issue in the community, and will only continue to get worse if it is not dealt with. Here are some measures that some communities have implemented:
- Parents should have open discussions with their children, at a young age. Discuss the risks of vaping, and why they should stay away from them.
- Schools should hold seminars on the dangers of vaping, and how vape companies often exploit children with their marketing tactics. According to truthinitiative.org, e-cigarette companies will offer scholarships and sponsor events. Big e-cigarette companies also have huge followings on social media, spending Millions of dollars a year on social media advertising.
- Governments can place stricter regulations on vaping, which include limiting flavors sold. The flavors sold are often the most attractive factor to teenagers. The government could also implement a digital ID, which could stop teens from using fake IDs.
See the other student projects: