The many dangers of smoking have led to a new danger -- e-cigarettes
E-cigarettes were initially marketed as a safer alternative to smoking. But with the many recent deaths and hospitalization of teenagers following e-cigarette use, health experts have become concerned about the vaping culture developing in Australia.
Smoking tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death and diseases in Australia. Smoking kills nearly 19,000 Australians every year, and caused 9.0% of the diseases in Australia in 2011. It also increases the risk of poor health conditions that lead to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, renal disease, respiratory conditions, and more.
In 2017, the overall rate of smoking among Australian students aged 12 to 17 years was 5%. Among students aged 12 to 15, 3% were estimated to be current smokers. Among teenagers 16 to 17 years, 10% were current smokers, and the smoking rate for males and females was 10% and 9%, respectively.
Smoking prevalence among teenagers. Source
Despite the prevalence of tobacco smoking, there is widespread awareness of its dangers. As a result, e-cigarettes have been regarded as a healthier alternative, given its lack of actual smoke. The device vapourises the tobacco instead. However, e-cigarettes are now a cause for concern.
Troubling current events surrounding e-cigarette vaping
Maddie Nelson, an 18-year-old from the United States (US), had been vaping daily for three years. In late July, she was admitted to hospital with a high fever, breathing difficulties, and severe kidney pain. Doctors found that she had acute eosinophilic pneumonia, a rare disease that is caused by white blood cell-buildup in the lungs due to inflammation. Doctors suspected electronic vaping sources as the cause of her fatal condition.
E-Cigarettes use cartridges that contain nicotine liquid. Those nicotine liquids are illegal in Australia, and it is illegal to buy them without a doctor’s prescription. Despite this, Australian teenagers have been purchasing e-nicotine liquid through online stores, which are encouraged by social media.
Why vaping is hazardous for teenagers?
Although it's not evidently clear how safe or unsafe vaping is, the United States’ CDC (Center for Disease Control) reports that September 2019 saw a huge splash of over 500 cases of lung illness linked to these products.
These reports also confirmed six deaths from vaping throughout the US -- Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, California, Oregon, and Minnesota, all in September. The investigations are still in progress, and the cause of the illness has not been identified. However, researchers advise young adults, pregnant women, and youth to avoid e-cigarette use.
The nicotine contained in vaping cartridges is highly addictive and can cause major health concerns. Its low dosage can cause abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and more. Even worse, high content consumption may lead to high blood pressure, seizure, tachycardia, coma, and even deaths. A 2018 report by the National Academics Press concluded that having a puff of nicotine-filled e-cigarette leads to increased heart rate.
Moreover, the FDA reports that e-cigarettes contain approximately 60-70% unidentified and identified compounds, including glycerol, propylene glycol along with flavors and a varying amount of nicotine. The cigarette alternative has also been said to contain up to 10 times the amount of cancer-causing agents than regular tobacco cigarettes.
Vaping also has several negative effects on teeth and gums. A 2018 report states that exposure to these products makes enamel unhealthy and more prone to develop bacteria. Another 2016 report links e-cigarette use to gum inflammation, which is a prime contributor to the development of Periodontol diseases. Many studies also indicate that both nicotine-free, as well as nicotine-based e-cigarettes, can hamper oral cells and tissues.
Final words -- Vaping is marketed as a safer alternative to smoking, but it may be the opposite
E-cigarette flavors lure and motivate teenagers to initiate smoking at an early age. But health experts say that the use of flavored vaping is a dangerous gateway to nicotine addiction among youth. This causes many health hazards, and nicotine is particularly dangerous to adolescent brain development.
Internet and social media have been driving the new generation towards vaping. In the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considered banning e-cigarette flavors to reduce vaping amongst youths. In November 2018, the organization shut down all social media to prevent teenagers from trying flavored pods. Nicotine liquid flavors are now only available on the organization’s official website with age verification.
The Australian government should follow the footprints of the US in this regard. Although vaping among teenagers is not as prevalent in Australia as it is in the US, there’s no telling if the trend will catch on in the near future. Taking the right steps now will keep the country’s teenagers from facing vaping-related health issues.