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Blog: Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

Thoughts on Vaping: A Cause for Concern

By Marie VanDalfsen, Principal Sandy Hill Elementary

It is not unusual to see clouds of white vapor rising from cars or lingering around gaggles of youth in parking lots or at bus stops, or surrounding adults on decks and porches across the town.  Vaping, a multi-billion dollar industry in Canada and the USA, has become very popular, particularly amongst the younger set and for those who mistakenly thought vaping was a healthy ‘better than smoking’ option.  Unfortunately, children as young as nine and ten are noticing the increased presence of vaping too, often drawn in by the sweet smell of the vaping juice and the ‘cool factor’ that can be associated with vaping. This is concerning especially since vaping products are actively marketed to young people, much like cigarettes were in the past.

Vaping is the use of an e-cigarette, an electronic device, (which are easy to hide and can look like a USB drive), that heats a pod of liquid nicotine and other ingredients producing an aerosol (thus the term vaping) which is then drawn deep into the smoker’s lungs. This vapor almost always contains nicotine. The highly addictive nature of nicotine on a young person’s brain is particularly concerning since a single vape juice pod can contain as much nicotine as a package of traditional cigarettes! And, most, if not all vaping juice pods contain at least some nicotine in the flavoring salts or as free-base nicotine.

Vaping juice can come in more than 7000 different flavors, most of which are designed to appeal to children and teens. The vaping vapor is not harmless water vapor.  In addition to nicotine and glycerin, the following chemicals and poisons are commonly found in e-cigarette cartridges, (according to Island Hospital respiratory specialists in Anacortes, USA):

Diacetyl – increases inflammation and disables cells that protect lung tissue. The eventual scarring of lung tissue, also known as popcorn lung, is irreversible.
Propylene glycerol – a toxic chemical used in antifreeze
Acetaldehyde, formaldehyde – known to cause lung cancer and cardiovascular disease
Acrolein – a herbicide that can cause COPD, asthma, and even lung cancer
Benzene – a carcinogen linked to leukemia.        

With these e-cigarette ingredients, it is not a surprise that research in both the USA and Canada is now demonstrating that regular use of vaping products on a regular basis will likely result in a significant increase in acid indigestion, anxiousness, depression, as well as increased concentration problems and increased frequency of chest colds and other lung related illnesses. A quick Google search will highlight many more health risks linked, through scientific research, to the use of e-cigarettes. The nicotine and flavour chemicals in vaping juice can also result in increased blood pressure and heart rates and can damage blood vessels, the heart, and brain cells, according to the American Lung Association. While there are no long-term studies yet, these initial findings are of significant concern!

There is a greater awareness of the potentially harmful nature of vaping due, in part, to the recent upsurge in media coverage about vaping and has resulted in a call to action by Health Canada for greater oversight and regulations of vaping product and of the vaping industry. There is an urgent need for parents to become better informed about the dangers of vaping so that they can intervene and/or support their children in their efforts to be healthy. Discussion with our Sandy Hill grade 4 and 5 students about the health implications of vaping indicated that most of our students could define vaping and that some of our students knew that vaping was linked to serious health implications, although only in a very general sense.  Many students indicated they knew both youth and adults who vaped regularly, at times in their presence, or that they have seen teens vaping on their way to or from school.  There were also students who indicated they had been offered opportunity to vape by someone they knew. These responses confirmed that timely education and open communication with our children can make a difference in helping them either avoid the vaping trap or in helping them find a way to quit vaping. As part of our intermediate level health education curriculum we will continue to provide age appropriate education regarding various substance use concerns, including vaping. If you are interested in obtaining more information regarding vaping, the B.C. Lung Association website offers information about vaping health concerns, quitting vaping support and on youth led research sponsored by the McCreary Center Society on vaping.