Vaping, a popular pastime among college students, is just as harmful as smoking, in the long run. Experts say that vaping, despite the opportunity to reduce harmful chemicals found in store brands and homemade cigarettes, still contains nicotine. However, it is the addictive qualities of nicotine that does not stop students from indulging in it.
“[The vaping epidemic] is such a new phenomenon. We do not have adequate research to know what’s gonna happen in the long run,” Interim Department Director of Lone Star College-Kingwood’s Nursing Nickie Loftin said. Recent studies are providing some answers. “Things are starting to come up.”
Vaping is one of the many trends that dominated this decade. Misinformation is one of the common themes surrounding the trend. It is a common misconception that vaping is harmless to the human body. Science agrees. Expert faculty members of Lone Star College System share their expertise about the phenomenon we call vaping.
E-cigarettes contain nicotine. Nicotine, a vasoconstrictor, is detrimental to blood flow, Loftin said. The vasoconstriction works like this—the veins in the vessels constrict and slows blood flow to the tissues. This induces longer recovery times and higher chances of failure for big surgeries. “So, just because you’re doing something without all of the harmful smoke and additives that are added to tobacco, you still get that nicotine which is still terrible for you.”
The nicotine from e-cigarettes affects brain health. Because of the restricted blood flow to the brain, “You are going to be sluggish. You are going to be tired. You’re not going to think clearly. You’re gonna get confused easily. [That is] really bad for a student. Contrary to what most people believe, we don’t have [an] excess number of brain cells that you can afford to lose,” said Professor Loftin. If someone under their mid-20’s is vaping, their personality is not developing as it should. “The younger you start, the more damage that occurs over the course of the time.” According to Dr. Carol B. Johnson, a professor of Biology at Lone Star College–North Harris, nicotine alters the functions between certain receptors in the autonomic nervous system. Overstimulation or suppression of these receptors will alter the communication between receptors and adjacent cells. The lack of communication will cause cell death in the brain, which is a long-consequence of nicotine.
Vaping is a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes in the short-term. However, it is a different case in the long-term. There is insufficient data to determine the long-term effects of vaping. Recent studies show a link between e-cigarette usage and popcorn lung disease. “We might not know more [about diseases linked to e-cigarettes] for another 10 years. Things are going to keep coming up. [We] don’t know what the long-term ramifications are,” Professor Loftin said.
Vape users have options to recover. Dr. Johnson says “a physician based or a rehabilitation method [is ideal].” A popular method is the nicotine patch. This is how they work: “The goal is to give you small amounts of nicotine, so then you don’t have those withdrawal symptoms. Over time, you minimize the amount of nicotine that is in the patch so that you can cope with withdrawals. You minimize withdrawals to the point where you have a patch that may not have anything in it.” There has been backlash toward these nicotine patches because of potential side effects. However, Johnson argues those side effects outweigh the consequences of vaping and cigarette smoking. Additionally, the vaping environment plays an important role in combating addiction. If a student wants to avoid vaping, Johnson suggests an evaluation of the vaping setting, the social setting, the character makeup of peers and the presence of peer pressure.
Short-term data has proved that vaping is not safe, especially for younger age groups. The nicotine will cause problems to arise in the body and the brain. Professor Loftin says, “[Vaping] is not cool. It is not good for [students]. There can only be problems. It can only lead to problems.” Students must consider the impact of vaping on their academic pursuits. “You are making a decision about your future,” says Dr. Johnson. Make sure your lifestyle choices are informed ones.