A few weeks back I went to a music festival with my best friend. It was an all-ages event, but I was a proud wearer of my 19+ wristband. It was a bright neon that laid upon my wrist in stark contrast to the rest of me. This was obviously so security and the concert staff would know that I could drink alcohol. This was also something fun for me to keep an eye out for as well, because a festival is a place where age is more of a number than an identifier.
But before I make myself sound like a senile old lady; I need to get to the point. I was able to easily differentiate those who were legal drinking (and therefore smoking) age to those who were not. What I noticed – with thine own eyes – is that yes, there are indeed a lot of youths vaping. That said, this was a two-day event for 15 rap artists who aren’t exactly the best advocates for a drug-free lifestyle. As someone who had been a teen not many years ago, I can say for certain that about half of t hose teens were only vaping because of the event, not because they like to vape daily.
Regardless, the cement ground was littered with Juul pods and burnt out blunts more than cigarettes. This is when it occurred to me that maybe teen vaping is a problem.
But is it really a crisis? Or just another generation of teens doing something for the sake of doing it – which isn’t anything new at all.
News companies, media, and other widespread opinion-givers are calling the Teen Vaping wave a Crisis. Everyone is telling everyone else that vaping is bad for you, addictive, stunts brain function, can poison you, and more. Some of these facts are indeed true, but not to the fear-inducing, crisis-calling degree that people would have you believe. I’m not writing this because I disagree with the media, I just want to clear the air a little.
A CBC article made a statement that if you were to pass by a high school you would indeed notice groups of teens outside vaping. They were focusing on the issue that teens are smoking underage, which is terrible and true but nothing new. When I read this, I thought to myself, “how is this different from before vapes were a thing?” During my time in high school there were swarms of teens who would all walk down to the smoke pit and light up their darts. Now we have teens smoking vaporizers instead of cigarettes, but the idea that what we are witnessing now is any different from what generations of teens have done in the past is not realistic. Back in the 90’s, the percentage of 12th graders that smoked cigarettes was way higher than the current amount today, which can be found across statistics online. So, sure teen vaping is on the rise, but teen smoking is on the decline in a way that has never been seen before. This isn’t a crisis.
Also, a crisis, according to Google dictionary is, “a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger,” which is not at all accurate to the change in patterns that we are currently seeing in teenage substance abuse. There are much more dangerous things that teens are doing that would be constituted as a crisis.
Vaping is not a healthy endeavor for anyone to have over a long period of time. While it is still uncertain if there are any long-term effects that vaping has on us, we know that nicotine is not something to be taken lightly. That said, the amount of nicotine inside of a standard 3mg is less than the amount found in cigarettes. The more extreme and unsafe option is a Juul , which has more nicotine than a pack of cigarettes (this company wants you to get addicted and therefore keep buying their exclusive Juul pods). That said, the average vape is still by far a much safer and healthier alternative to cigarettes.
Vaping is healthier than smoking, but not vaping at all is the healthiest option. This is true, but it’s also healthier for everyone to stop drinking, eating red meat, ingesting so much dairy, etc. When have humans scorned something because it wasn’t completely risk free, and if they have, did it stop the usage of it?
After all that is said and done, we can’t say for sure how much nicotine teens have in their vapes. Lots of teens could only be vaping for the flavor, and therefore be buying the nicotine free e-juice. Even if all your friends are vaping nicotine, they would have no clue if yours was a 0mg unless they vaped it. I can guess that a lot of youths are vaping to look cool and join in on the fad but didn’t purchase an e-juice with nicotine because they never smoked in the first place. Another type of vaporizer out there is a weed vape, which means that some of the teen vapers you see are just smoking weed (which is still illegal, but not relevant).
This is nothing new. There has always been something that the “teens are getting themselves into these days ,” and this is just the current generation’s thing. It was originally cigarettes, then weed, and now its vaping. Smoking circles have always existed. It is a specific social encounter that has and will continue to exist even without vaping. It’s not the teens ’ fau l t s for following the footsteps of the generations before them.
Something else to consider is that there is more to teens wanting to vape than it “looking cool.” It is a naturally recurring thing for youth to see something and want to try it. The information and marketing around vaping is that it’s something new to try; which only makes youths want to try it. Vaping needs to be used to get people off their addictions, not just add a new addiction.
Yes, we know. If you don’t know then you are choosing to look past or ignore the warning signs… just like how you are scrolling past the warnings in this blog. But do teens know? Unfortunately, teens are less likely to reach out and educate themselves about vaping, so it’s our job to help them understand.
Habits are hard t o break, same with addiction or cravings. The easiest way to break off fr o m an addiction is to replace it with a new addiction. This curbs the cravings because you are too engulfed in the new craving. Nicotine does this for sm ok ing. It’s the better option of the two, but all it does is make you want nicotine more than tobacco. If it isn’t about the aesthetic, the vape tricks, the social atmosphere, or other more naïve reasons… then why are teens doing it? When they let themselves become addicted to vaping, what habits or addictions are they trying to escape (or pretending to)? I can’t answer this, but I can imagine . High school is one of the most difficult and emotionally strenuous time s for most people . For the teens’ sakes, we can give them the benefit of the doubt and hope they are vaping to quit smoking, weed, or other substance abuse; but we can also make sure they are aware of nicotine as a highly addictive substance, just in case.
That said, nicotine is on average about as addicting as caffeine. As someone who has recently fallen into the “coffee first, wake up second,” loophole, I can vouch not only for how easy it is to become addicted, but also how easy it is to stop. I can go through the morning without coffee. While at first, I notice its absence, halfway through my day I totally forgot that I didn’t start my day with a mug in hand. Just like it is possible to quit smoking; it is possible to quit nicotine.
So are luxury cosmetics, expensive shoes, designer bags, etc. Vaping seems like another “ in style ” thing that’s become over hyped by teens because that’s just what they do. But just like they overhype, they easily move onto the next best thing. In the world of materialism that we live in, something this ov e r-hyped is hard to resist. Regardless of how quickly vaping is becoming popular, it is a natural thing for something like this to “be all the rage” and then simmer out. Other examples would be the iPod or Fortnite.
Another incentive that teens may have to vape is the way it opens new doors to social situations. Similarly, to smoking outside of a pub, it is a ticket or icebreaker for social acceptance within that specific and otherwise elusive circle. In an ideal world, this would be where separated social circles, cliques, or people who just never talk would be able to chat and bond over something. This for a teen, who struggles with social encounters every single day of their lives, is really powerful.
Even though vaping isn’t the big bad wolf that media is crying it out to be, it’s still something that needs to be regulated. It has been suggested before that stores try harder to I.D. anyone looking under the age of 30.
Another incentive would be for the government to play around with different taxing or pricing for e-juices that contain nicotine versus those which don’t. Similarly, to LST on alcohol and no LST for alcohol free beer, etc.
Another idea would be to have a vaping equivalent to Serving it Right, where the store employees are required to be more thoroughly educated on vaping/risks before being allowed to sell it to anyone. More education across the board is called for. Teens and children need to be informed of the risks so that they can make more educated decisions for themselves. Posters, flyers, government commercials and ads, etc. would not only break the stigma and fear around vaping but benefit everyone.
Think of something that we could do to help spread the truth about vaping? Leave us a comment below.