E-cigarettes are supposed to encourage adults to stop smoking, but they're attracting another market: adolescents.
A 2018 study by the University of Michigan revealed 21 percent of senior high school students vaped within the past month. It was an increase of 10 percent compared to the previous year and the largest spike for over the last 43 years.
It is a trend that Maciej Goniewicz, an e-cigarette researcher in Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, also noticed based on the ages of his volunteers.
"[These are] people who were breathing pure air for a long time — and have never smoked tobacco cigarettes — who now have started using e-cigarettes," he said to Vox.
It then leads to a critical question: what are the health effects of vaping, especially among the teens?
Cardiovascular Effects Of Vaping
The health impacts of vaping are broad, studies suggest. For example, it can damage the DNA, increasing the risks of cancer.
Most, though, believe it has the most significant effect on the cardiovascular system. The level of chemicals present in the e-cigarettes can vary, with some containing no nicotine at all.
Those that do, however, may still have the same outcome as traditional or combustible cigarettes. It can stimulate the fight-or-flight response and increase the release of adrenaline. In turn, blood pressure rises, heart rate speeds up, and the blood vessels begin to narrow.
A 2017 review published in Nature Reviews Cardiology revealed it may stimulate cardiovascular events, particularly for people with a pre-existing heart condition.
Vaping Can Boost Respiratory Disease
Vaping can also release particulate matter small enough for the person to inhale. These particles, which may also include traces of metal, can lodge in the lungs. The blood may also absorb them, distributing them to different parts of the body.
Although the researchers still haven't figured out the effects of the e-cigarette particles, previous studies associated particulate matter to cardiovascular-related problems. These include hypertension, coronary artery disease, and heart attack.
The vapor can also irritate the lungs, although not the same way as tobacco smoking. It may double the risks of wheezing, especially among the ex-smokers who also vaped.
Encouraging The Youth To Smoke
There's not enough data to show that vaping may eventually help tobacco smokers to quit, but many types of research point out how it encourages the youth to learn how to smoke.
A 2016 study among 3,804 students showed that one in every five of them who admitted to vaping at the beginning of the research ended up smoking traditional cigarettes thrice by the end of the survey. More than 10 percent of those who vaped regularly smoked a cigarette at least once every month.
Vaping may not only increase the risks of traditional smoking but may also attract teens to try other substances such as marijuana.
Vaping hasn't been around for a long period, so it needs more conclusive studies. For the likes of Goniewicz, however, the existing research should be enough for health experts and the government to pay closer attention to the habit.