Vaping: a future public health catastrophe

Will the doctors of the future be dealing with the long-term health consequences of vaping? Sometimes I think this is inevitable as more teenagers take up the habit which involves inhaling aerosolised liquid which has been heated in a special device. Vaping among secondary-school children is rising, with nearly one in five 15-year-olds using e-cigarettes in 2021, a survey by NHS Digital suggests. Among 11-15-year-olds, 9% say they are vapers – up from 6% in 2018.

The survey asked more than 9,000 pupils in 119 secondary schools in England about their habits between September 2021 and February 2022.

And more information is coming out about the damaging effects of these smoking alternatives which appeal to young people such as myself and even younger. The UK has strict rules on safety, labelling and advertising to prevent children from vaping, a government spokesperson said, but that only applies to regulated products. Vapes are available in bright colours and various sweet flavours, yet they usually contain nicotine, which is a stimulant, and other chemicals that may damage the lungs. I have even see a vape that looks exactly like a highlighter and can easily be concealed in school supplies. Ironically, a vape is available which looks exactly like an asthma inhaler,

If you truly want to understand the marketing ploys of the industry then watch the documentary about the brand Juul.

A lot of young people truly believe that vaping is harmless, certainly much less damaging than smoking normal cigarettes. . Just like 100 years ago when young children smoked cigarettes because it was an unknown danger, teenagers today use vapes because they think its like sucking on a lollipop, with the extra benefit that you can blow smoke rings and do tricks.

So lets dive into the technical stuff and show you why this is concerning. E-cigarettes produce a number of dangerous chemicals including acetaldehyde, acrolein, and formaldehyde. These aldehydes can cause lung disease, as well as cardiovascular disease. E-cigarettes also contain acrolein, a herbicide primarily used to kill weeds. They also contain diacetyl which causes popcorn lung, where scarring of the tiny air sacs in the lungs resulting in the thickening and narrowing of the airways. It is a serious lung disease that causes coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath, similar to the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Once you start vaping you will enjoy the normal feeling of a nicotine rush, but after a while it can give you something called ‘nic sic’ which is an awful dizzy nauseous feeling as you build up a tolerance.

The danger is that a liquid in the vape triggers your immune system to shut down and cause complete lung failure. This is in rare cases with a specific component in the vape, but those who go through it will testify to how terrifying of an experience it is as the symptoms are sudden as your lungs suddenly shut down. We do not yet truly understand why this happens or what devastating health effects may appear over decades, but who wants take the risk?

Imogen Lord
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