The Masked Reality of Vape

By Aiman Patoli

Vaping, the new face of nicotine, is hitting society’s youth hard and experts are trying to catch up.

“[The vaping epidemic] is such a new phenomenon. We do not have adequate research to know what’s gonna happen in the long run,” Lone Star College-Kingwood Professor of Nursing Nickie Loftin said.

“Things are starting to come up.”

Vaping is one of the many trends that dominate this decade.

In “Why People Smoke,” Martin J. Jarvis, Professor of health psychology in the department of epidemiology and public health at University College London, argues that one may pick up an e-cigarette/cigarette in response to peer pressure, adolescent rebellion, usage in the surrounding environment, and mental instability.

With respect to vaping on campus, some students from Lone Star College-Kingwood expressed their opinion and is not unanimously supported by the student body. Duyen Nguyen says, “I do not support vaping on campus. School is not the place for vaping.” Tyra Nanyanazi expressed her dissent for the smoke, “I do not like breathing in the smoke.”

Misinformation is one of the common themes surrounding the trend. There is a common belief vaping is harmless to the human body. Expert faculty members share their expertise about the phenomenon.

“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 are nicotine patches. 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 audiences. 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. E-cigarettes are not a safe trend to follow.  

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Lone Star College-Kingwood Office of Technology Service desk worker Justin Dodd vaping on his break outside the Student Conference Center. Photo By Nicolas Oviedo Orjuela September 27, 2018.

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