Behind the Vape Cloud

What’s really going into your lungs

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Illustration by Ella Apuntar and Darin Connolly

Every day I see friends taking hits anywhere from a dining hall to McHenry Library. My Snapchat feed is full of classmates blowing Os and doing french inhales. They take selfies while enjoying the sweet smell of the vapor that lingers in the air, but they don’t know what they’re smoking.

E-cigarette users need to be aware of what’s in their vapes before taking a hit. People under 21 are the most affected and least informed about the health dangers of e-cigarettes. 

Companies are aware of the rise in minors illicitly using their products, but still target them. 

Teens between 15 and 17 years old are 16 times more likely to use Juuls compared to those who are over 21, according to a Truth Initiative study. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey accused the makers of Juul of targeting juvenile consumers in 2018, and removed mango, cucumber, creme and other fruity flavors from the store shelves. The company didn’t stop selling its most popular flavor — mint.

These flavorful pods may be an easy source for a quick high, however the substances in the devices are hazardous. Some of the chemicals found in e-devices are the same chemicals used to make plastics, kill plants and treat wastewater, including sewage. These toxins can lead to nausea, coughing and headaches. They can also cause central and peripheral nerve damage, respiratory tract irritation, spasms, fainting and an increase of fluid in the lungs. 

Vape culture ignores these ugly consequences, portraying smoking as a harmless activity. This culture is popularized by celebrities, contributing to the misuse of these nicotine devices. Vape products can be spotted on all forms of social media. 

Lifestyle blogger Christina Zayas received money from influencer marketing firm Lumanu to promote using Juuls on her Instagram. She reached thousands of teenagers who wanted their own trendy accessory after seeing the influencer’s glam shot with her Juul.

When younger generations see their favorite YouTuber or Instagrammer vaping, it’s not surprising to see them invest in their own e-cigarettes. These stars are called “influencers” for a reason.

No internet stars show the ugly truth of vaping. Taking in too much nicotine can lead to illnesses like nicotine poisoning, with cold-like symptoms lasting 15 minutes to an hour — 24 hours in more severe cases. Vaping has more severe consequences, however, sending teens to the hospital with serious health issues. 

According to CBS News, an 18-year-old went to the emergency room in 2018 with respiratory issues due to her misuse of e-cigarettes. Doctors diagnosed her with wet lung, which occurs when blood vessels leak into the lungs after being severely inflamed. The woman told her doctor she had been using e-cigarettes for three weeks before the incident, and had a mild case of asthma.

Popcorn lung is another respiratory illness e-cigarette use can lead to. Although rare, past popcorn lung cases have been linked with diacetyl, a chemical compound found in some e-cigarettes. Symptoms start out similar to the common cold, however if left untreated, popcorn lung can become severe and even lead to death.

These cases are rare, but they are still possible. Anyone can fall ill with severe lung damage, so everyone should be mindful when considering vaping.

Before you decide to inhale any harmful substances, consider the health hazards vape juices contain. Choose which you would rather do: get a headrush for a few seconds or avoid the risk of permanent heart, lung or nerve damage. Consider skipping that next hit of nicotine to prolong your health.


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