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Open Collection of Student Writing (OCSW)

Vaping: An Investigative Story of Today

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths not only in America, but in the entire world, and despite known health risks people continue to smoke. Why? Are we as a society giving in to the hazardous consequences that accompany the smoker’s lifestyle, or are we dull to these consequences to begin with? Have things spun too far out of our control? The answer to these questions is predictably no, and actually you could argue we are doing more now than ever before to aid our society with alternative opportunities to smoking. You are probably familiar with some of these alternative opportunities such as over-the-counter forms of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) including chewed gum or nicotine patches. There are also pharmaceutical drugs that help fight the urge to consume nicotine, but one method of NRT stands conclusively more effective when it comes to helping users successfully avoid relapse and circumvent many of the dangers associated with conventional cigarettes (CC). Believe it or not, that method is vaping.

Vaping may seem like a new craze that has taken the world by storm, although electronic cigarettes have been available in slightly more basic forms since 2003. Most electronic cigarettes include a battery-operated atomizer that contains metal coils used to heat liquids inside the tank area of the device and turn them into the form of vapors. [Armendáriz-Castillo] Users ingest these vapors to satisfy cravings for nicotine or often just to enjoy the taste of the many flavored liquid options known as E-juices. Nicotine products are vaped much more frequently in society for a variety of reasons, but in recreational states and even those without recreational laws vaping cannabis remains a prevalent part of the culture. Whether it be used as nicotine replacement in a casual user or long time smoker, vaping has real potential to be a successful treatment for all based on the fact that nicotine absorption can be manipulated by purchasing liquids with higher or lower nicotine contents, or by purchasing higher grade devices that increase or decrease the amount of vapor output and ultimately change the amount on nicotine ingested.

Vaping equips users with a more “hands-on” approach to deal with their nicotine cravings or addiction. One of the most appealing aspects of vaping is the fact that the user does not need to quit “smoking” and can receive a similar amount, if not more, nicotine than before. Often times unsuccessful attempts at quitting smoking are due to what is known as the idea of Time Quit Smoking, or the notion that the time it will take to successfully move away from cigarettes is relative to the time spent smoking. [Brose] This idea is often backed by stimulation and fixation studies that identify patterns in the user’s life and work to replace those patterns with new more healthy ones. In theory, vaping could allow many current smokers to easily transition away from their current form of nicotine ingestion, to a more controlled yet similar form. Studies conducted in the U.K. in May of 2016 indicated also that other forms of NRT were not only less effective than vaping but led to a higher relapse rate than quitting the consumption of nicotine altogether. [Brose] For many smokers the idea of quitting nicotine consumption as a whole is unrealistic, so to find an avenue that provides any positive outcome is encouraging. Vaping may not be a perfect solution, yet it is a step in the right direction.

It is estimated that after 1 year of an attempt to quit only 5% of people remained abstinent from smoking. [Brose] This number may be adjusted due to factors such as abstinent period or based on use of NRT, but still this number remains very low. For many users vaping has been the answer to this low success rate and the numbers from the FDA show that only 39% of daily vapers are estimated to relapse. [Brose] This is an enormously affirmative for all those who would like to invest into alternate opportunities, although the health consequences of vaping are often contested the same way as those of smoking. A multitude of studies have looked into the chemical compounds found in both e-cigarettes and conventional cigarettes, however only about 65% of these surveys reported to be accurate. The other 35% were questioned due to conflict of interest issues relating to funding sourced by the manufacturers of electronic cigarettes and conventional cigarettes. Only recently are we beginning to see the involvement of government testing programs and studies conducted on the safety of vaping and the safety of e-juices.

Most of these credible studies have revolved around the genotoxic and carcinogenic effects related to e-cigarettes and e-juices, mainly focused on the fluid compositions of e-juices and the effects of heated metals on the human body. There are 150 known chemical compounds that can be found within the smoke of conventional cigarettes and 84 that can be found in electronic cigarette vapor. E-juices have been identified to be composed of glycols, nicotine, tobacco specific nitrosamines, carbonyls, hydrocarbons, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. [Armendáriz-Castillo] These compounds are further categorized based on health risks associated such as eye and skin irritation, respiratory track irritation, mild effects, cardiovascular system problems, carcinogenic, neurotoxicity, and unknown effects on humans. The majority of chemicals with unknown effects normally are safe when digested by humans, but little is known about inhalation of these products. As for the heated metals used in the devices, no toxic fumes were shown to be omitted, although this may be an area for specific and tight regulations as the industry continues to thrive. [Armendáriz-Castillo]

The state of Utah found legitimate reason to erupt into a vaping related crisis in the year 2019, when an outbreak of electronic vapor associated lung injury (EVALI) occurred amongst the youth population leaving 79 people with acute lung injuries. The majority of the patients ended up in the hospital and half required respiratory assistance. Every patient who was interviewed during this time reported the use of black-market THC vapor cartridges, and after the lab test were conducted 89% of the products tested came back positive for Vitamin E acetate, a popular cutting agent used in illegal THC vape cartridges. [CDC UT] Though these may have been illegal cartridges, questions about the effects of unregulated heated metals and unknown chemicals being ingested begun to become the subject in question. Vitamin E acetate was not much different structurally from many of these chemicals already found in legal nicotine products, so who was to say another outbreak may not occur as production of this industry expands?

All the recent speculation in safety however has led to an abundance of newly conducted, as well as unbiasedly funded, studies that allude to vaping or smoking patterns being the deterrents of overall health of the user. Newfound research seems to suggest that not only are daily vapers more likely to avoid relapse, but they are also less exposed to toxic compounds such as carbon monoxide, hydroxypyrene, and butanol. Dual users are not only considered to be a higher risk of relapse of cigarettes but are also more prone to health complications due to smoking because of an increased exposure to dangerous chemicals. [Armendáriz-Castillo] So, while it may not be safe to say vaping is healthy, it may be accurate to suggest vaping is better than smoking cigarettes or vaping alone is better than being a dual user of both products. It is also a fair assessment to claim that vaping is the most practicable application of nicotine replacement therapy, and that users who would like to try vaping to reduce their smoking habit are on the right track in doing so. As the industry continues to advance so will the technology and science foregrounding it leading to better and healthier products.

So, our look into vaping has shown us many things and answered many questions about this sometime mysterious industry, but we are left with the one question still. How do you personally feel about vaping? Now knowing the facts of the matter are you supportive of the vaping industry or does the opposition remain the same for that of cigarettes? I like to believe that people should be free to make their own choices and we have seen that vaping offers the world that. It is not perfect as fore mentioned, but it is something that is helping a lot of people avoid the relapse of cigarettes and avoid sever health risks every day. Without vaping, many people including myself would just smoke!

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