190428-yh-ul-vapingcolumnhannah.jpg

An anonymous model showcases vape products on March 14 in downtown Yakima.

For thousands of years, people have participated in recreational smoking. As technology has advanced, the method for smoking has changed from dried tobacco leaves in pipes to, more recently, electronic cigarettes filled with liquid that is commonly referred to as vape juice.

Regardless of the times, one thing has always remained constant: Smoking is harmful to a person’s health.

In the early 2000s, the Chinese company Hon Lik released the modern vaping pen that we know today. Vaping was sold to the public as a way to wean off of an addiction to cigarettes by providing a liquid version of nicotine with fewer harmful chemicals involved.

On the surface, this marketing tactic seems rather innocent, and even quite revolutionary. After decades of people suffering from the effects of smoking cigarettes, the possibility of a more successful method to quitting should have immediately been met with praise and quick adoption. However, vaping did not take off in the United States until around 2010.

Following the sudden popularity of e-cigarettes, it became quite obvious that this new technology was not being used for its intended purpose. Instead of helping smokers rid their reliance on nicotine over time, vaping has become commonly used as a way to have constant access to nicotine while in public venues that do not allow cigarette smoking.

In addition, vaping has been shown to lead to a use of other drugs, such as tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly referred to as THC, the chemical in marijuana. Not only can a user receive the same high as “smoking a blunt,” but they can also vape many harmful drugs such as heroin and other opioids. Due to the lack of knowledge on vaping among the public, people are not always aware of the dangers of picking up an e-cigarette and taking a puff.

Many high school students have also begun to vape recreationally, whether it’s in the car while driving, in school bathrooms, or in their homes. Believing that vaping will not have negative effects on their health, teens spend their allowance or paychecks on cartridges, new pens, or other accessories that make their “fun pastime” more amusing.

The issue with this sudden rise in vaping among high schoolers is not necessarily its increase in popularity, but rather the lack of knowledge on what they’re doing. In fact, the general notion is that there are no risks involved with vaping.

An article titled “Vaping: The Good, the Bad and the Popcorn Lung” at MPHOnline.org discusses the risk of contracting bronchiolitis obliterans, also known as popcorn lung. Author Sam MacArthur writes that “in 2015, more than half of the mass-market e-cigarettes studied were found to contain the chemical (diacetyl) — especially flavored vape juice.” However, this risk is not one discussed by high school students on a daily basis. In fact, it’s hardly on their radar at all.

Another common issue with vaping among high schoolers is that the longer a teen vapes, the more likely that person is to become exposed to other drugs. Very similar to a person accidentally smoking marijuana that has been laced with another drug, teens may share vape pens with friends, unaware of the contents within the cartridge. Even though there are cartridges available without any drugs at all, there is no guarantee that the person next to you has the same contents in their e-cigarettes.

Although THC is not considered an addictive substance, drugs such as heroin and nicotine are highly addictive, and being exposed just once can spark a lifetime of dependence. Sometimes, high schoolers may intentionally vape a substance, believing that it is less addictive or that they won’t become addicted because they “know what they’re doing.” These opinions are just the symptoms of ignorance.

Whether or not a person views vaping as a harmful activity cannot always be changed, but it is possible to educate others on the possible downsides to the seemingly innocent activity. While there are many things out there that have the potential to help someone, any misuse of those things could prove to be harmful.

It is important when making the decision to use e-cigarettes that you are aware of all of the risks involved in order to make an informed decision. Like any other major life decision, it is imperative to be responsible and well-informed.

Hannah Boucher is a senior at Eisenhower High School.