E-cigarettes, or “vapes,” have become a wildly popular substitute for cigarettes in the past four years. Their dangers have become so widespread that lawmakers have passed restrictions against them. Despite this, vaping seems to be a more popular practice than ever. Why are there laws against vaping? Can the new vaping laws curb teen use? We’ll explore this and let you know all the side effects of this new practice. Learn how you can get help with your vaping habit at Discovery Institute.

What is “Vaping”?

Vaping involves the use of vaping devices, which consist of electronic cigarettes, also known as vapes, e-cigs, vape pens or hookah pens. Users inhale aerosols out of these battery-operated devices, and they usually contain nicotine and flavorings. Many vapes resemble USB sticks, although have also been designed to look like cigarettes. Over the last few years, more than 460 vaping brands have come onto the market.

There are four different parts to a vape: 

  • A power source
  • A cartridge/pod/reservoir that holds a liquid solution containing nicotine, flavoring, and other chemicals
  • A heating element, or atomizer
  • A mouthpiece for inhaling

Inhaling from the vape activates the heating device, which then vaporizes the liquid, allowing the user to inhale the aerosol and get high.

How Vaping Affects Your Brain

Vaping affects your brain in the same way that smoking cigarettes does. When you inhale the vapor, the nicotine inside it absorbs quickly into your lungs. Now that the nicotine is in your bloodstream, it stimulates glands that release adrenaline, which stimulates the central nervous system (CNS). In turn, your breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure increase. Nicotine also increases the amount of dopamine in your body, activating the brain’s reward center. 

Because you feel good when you have nicotine, you usually require more and more of it to feel that same amount of pleasure. This is why people who smoke or vape often will crave nicotine when they are stressed or upset. Some people have used vapes as a substitute for cigarettes so they can quit, but there are few studies that show whether this is effective.

Health Effects of Vaping on the Body and Brain 

Vaping increases your desire for nicotine, which is no doubt an addictive drug. Once your brain craves nicotine constantly, it may lead you to try other substances that will give you the same effect. Vaping is a relatively new trend, so there aren’t enough studies to determine exactly how healthy a habit it is.

Teens and adults who vape may think that they’re inhaling a pure vapor that gives off a clean high, but that isn’t always the case. Although recent studies have shown that vapes may be less harmful than cigarettes, others say the other chemicals inside vapes that include flavoring aren’t healthy for your body. Some e-cig brands contain carcinogens (which cause cancer), toxic metal particles, and high levels of chromium and nickel. Also in the liquid is cadmium, which can cause disease and breathing problems in heavy smokers. 

Vaping vs. Smoking Cigarettes 

Even though vaping is considered a “healthier” alternative to smoking as vapes have fewer chemicals, it doesn’t mean it’s safer. Since lungs can’t filter out toxic chemicals, the inhalation of certain vaping oils has also led to lung illnesses and even death in some smokers. As of January 2020, there have been 60 deaths related to e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury (EVALI). The main chemical of concern behind EVALI is vitamin E acetate, which is a thickening agent usually found in THC-vaping devices.

As we mentioned earlier, nicotine increases your blood pressure and adrenaline. This increases your heart rate as well as your risk for heart attack. Vaping has also been linked to cardiovascular disease and chronic lung disease and asthma. One study found that students who vape are more likely to end up suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and anxiety.

“People need to understand that e-cigarettes are potentially dangerous to your health,” said Michael Joseph Blaha, M.D., M.P.H., director of clinical research at the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease. “You’re exposing yourself to all kinds of chemicals that we don’t yet understand and that are probably not safe.”

Vaping and Teens: Why is it So Popular?

Vaping has skyrocketed among teens and young adults, and a big reason for this is the attractive flavors available in vaping devices. Vaping is now the most common source of nicotine among young people in the U.S. E-cigarette companies like Juul, Stig and NJOY have become masters at marketing their product so that it looks attractive to teens. 

With flavors like Blazberry Cream, Cotton Candy, and Apple Cinnamon Donut, who wouldn’t want to try a vape? These along with the wide availability of vapes and the illusion of them being safer than cigarettes has caused sales to boom. 

While cartridge-based vape brands used to be more popular, disposable e-cigarettes like Puff Bar are now taking over since teens won’t have to buy new cartridges. Many young people also find the lack of smoke from vapes appealing. Cigarette smoke tends to leave an unpleasant odor on people’s clothes and in rooms, and vaping doesn’t do this. 

Statistics

About 2.5 million former smokers are now using vapes. More than 5 million teens in the U.S. are vaping, and about 88 percent of high schoolers who vape regularly (about 20 to 30 times a month) were previously cigarette smokers. This is compared to about 12 percent of vapers who had never smoked before.

What Are the New Vaping Laws? 

Before 2016, vaping wasn’t given much consideration. However, now that vaping has increased exponentially, law enforcement has been looking at it much more closely. All 50 states, including New Jersey, have banned the sale of vapes to anyone under the age of 21, and several states have taken the time to define exactly what a vape is. Many states have also placed a ban on vaping in most indoor workplaces. There are also some taxes on vapes, which vary by state.

The Trump administration issued a ban on all mint and fruit flavors in vapes in 2019. In Colorado, lawmakers enacted a ban on all flavored nicotine products to curb the teen vaping rate. 

Why Is There A Need for Vaping Laws? Are They Helping?

Schools have seen huge problems with vaping among students. Many have gone to the hospital for vaping problems. Laws have been created to curb vaping because of these health issues. Lawmakers believe that by enacting laws, they will be preventing teens from using these devices. The American Medical Association has called for a ban on all vapes, but banning vaping might actually be hurting more than helping. People have restricted the use of cigarettes, but they’ve never been outright banned. The interesting part is that cigarette smoking is now at an all-time low.  

Although Juul got rid of all of its mint and fruit flavors in 2019, many brands still have these kinds of flavors available. Teenagers have also found loopholes in the Trump administration’s flavor-banning law. The law technically only applies to refillable vapes like Juuls, which is why young people are now switching to disposable vapes like those offered by Puff Bar. Puff Bar offers plenty of fruity and minty flavors. As a result, young adults are still finding and using flavored vapes.

By raising the age at which people can buy vapes, more young people may actually be encouraged to buy cigarettes. This will make the smoking rate go up, and lawmakers have tried so hard for it to go down.

Instead of simply banning vaping, the best way to convince teens to not vape may be changing the way they think about it. Vaping is considered “cool” now. For a long time, cigarette smoking was considered cool, but marketing like The Truth Campaign portrayed tobacco companies in a negative light. If teens begin to see that vaping has a negative effect on their health, they’ll be less likely to buy an e-cigarette.

Treating Your Vaping Addiction

Like cigarette smoking, vaping is addicting. If your teen is constantly craving an e-cigarette, they may have a nicotine addiction. 

Treating nicotine addiction requires therapy and a will to quit. The most effective way to quit smoking is through over-the-counter nicotine patches and gums, as well as prescription nicotine replacement methods. Your child may experience serious withdrawal symptoms if they don’t have nicotine regularly. Signs and symptoms of vaping addiction include: 

  • Sweating
  • Constipation and gas
  • Sore throat
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Weight gain
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability

It is possible to quit your nicotine addiction with plenty of dedication. 

Get Help for Vaping at Discovery Institute

Is your teen vaping constantly without any regard for the consequences of their actions? Discovery Institute can help. We can provide individual therapy, group therapy and holistic therapy that will help your child get over their vaping addiction. We put our patients’ recovery first and won’t rest until you reach your goals. Contact us today.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.