More and more teenagers are joining in on the new vaping craze. However, to an outsider, vaping looks a lot like smoking, which most of our generation has been taught to see as dangerous and even disgusting. Is there a difference? And why has vaping suddenly become so popular?
Vaping involves breathing in the vapor of a liquid known as e-liquids, or e-juice. Though vaping was originally meant to help people quit smoking, it can still dangerous and unhealthy because e-juice often contains nicotine. E-juice usually contains chemicals like propylene glycol (a preservative), glycerin, nicotine, and flavorings. Nicotine is the addictive chemical within tobacco.
Vaping is not just some new fad among rebellious teenage punks. The first e-cigarettes were recorded in the 1960s, but they didn’t become widely used until 2003, when Chinese medical researcher Hon Lik developed the modern vaping technology we see people puffing on street corners these days. Like it or not, vaping has become more than a remedy for cigarette addiction. It has evolved into a part of modern culture- more specifically, teenage culture.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, e-cigarette use tripled among youths from 2013 to 2014. An anonymous Corona del Mar (CdM) student readily admitted to a vaping habit as they explained, “My friends would always do it so I decided to try it one day and now I’m hooked and can do all different tricks.”
Whether we realize it or not, vaping is a part of the culture of CdM. One only has to visit the back parking lot by the Enclave building at break and lunch to witness clouds of white vapor rising into the air amid the rows of cars. Some people try to look cool by vaping, but in a generation of D.A.R.E graduates who have seen firsthand the harmful effects of smoking, there has to be something else to convince teenagers to vape. Like gum or Starbucks drinks, vaping e-juice comes in different flavors.
Two CdM vapers, both preferring to remain anonymous, said their respective favorite flavors are fruit punch, which is also called unicorn blood, and fresh warm glazed donut.
Users can inhale clouds of various flavored e-juice concoctions. There are even recipe books available for purchase so users can mix up their own e-juice. It’s moon-vape instead of moonshine.
Some popular flavors listed on the website Vaper Soul are cinnamon, cotton candy, vanilla, caramel cheesecake, buttered popcorn, and raspberry. Notice how these flavors are mostly sweet, fattening food and drinks when consumed in their true solid form. And who likes sweet and fattening food more than a teenager?
Tobacco companies have long been accused of targeting young buyers with advertisements focused on making smoking look hip and cool. Nowadays kids are taught the dangers of smoking long before they can legally buy a cigarette, so this strategy is beginning to deflate. With vaping, potential buyers are lured in by the different flavors and the futuristic vaping pens, many of which are designed to look like things such as magic wands or light sabers.
Let’s not forget, vaping is a relatively new way to smoke. Nicotine is still the same addictive and dangerous chemical it has always been.
Another important fact to remember is that vaporizers and e-juice, like cigarettes, are illegal for those younger than 18 years of age to buy. Even that may be changing soon, as Hawaii recently became the first state to raise the legal smoking age to 21. Because of the close relationship vaping has with smoking, it too faces government restrictions. In many states, vaping is prohibited in movie theaters, restaurants, and all other indoor public spaces and workplaces. However, e-cigarettes and the liquids they vaporize are not yet regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Vapers would be wise to remember legal restrictions and the possible harmful effects of vaping and the chemicals within e-juice. Vaping isn’t all about tasty flavors or looking cool.