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Why Are Teenagers Becoming Addicted (And Often Getting Very Sick From) Vaping?

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Vaping refers to the act of inhaling and exhaling the aerosol, or vapor, created by a vaping device. A vaping device includes a mouthpiece, a battery, a heating component, and a cartridge that contains the e-liquid or e-juice. The e-liquid is a combination of nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals. Vaping devices can also be used to vaporize THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana, by replacing e-liquids with cannabis-infused oils. The battery in a vaping device powers the heating component, which heats up the e-liquid, also known as vape juice. As a result, the device produces water vapor. Users inhale this vapor into their lungs.

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When her son was a high school freshman, Kristin Beauparlant noticed a change. The hockey player began getting gassed more easily on the ice. Beauparlant could hear her son’s coughing and wheezing from the stands. But it was his demeanor that scared her most. Cade Beauparlant’s anxiety and mood swings worsened, his outbursts so sudden and so explosive that his mother said she came to fear him. It took more than three years — and help from a renowned pediatrician — to understand what was going on: Her son was addicted to nicotine, delivered by a Juul, a sleek e-cigarette that looks like a USB drive. As e-cigarettes have skyrocketed in popularity among teenagers in the past two years, pediatricians report seeing teens who behave less like tobacco users and more like patients with substance-abuse disorders.Some young people have resorted to stealing from their parents or selling e-cigarette paraphernalia to support their habits, addiction treatment specialists said. And even though many teens assume e-cigarettes are safe, some turn up with signs of nicotine toxicity, a condition previously seen in young children who accidentally ingested nicotine gum. Others are reporting respiratory problems. After more than three years of vaping daily, Beauparlant was diagnosed with restrictive lung disease. His mother said she is working with an attorney to file a class-action lawsuit against Juul that would force it to set up treatment centers

“We were thinking about vapes just like we thought about cigarettes. Over time we realized no, no. This is something really different,” said Sharon Levy, director of the Adolescent Substance Use and Addiction Program at Boston Children’s Hospital. She and other doctors said they believe they are witnessing for the first time the damage that repeated exposure to high levels of nicotine wreaks on young bodies. Although the phenomenon has yet to be described in medical literature, anecdotal evidence from leading addiction specialists in Boston and New York and from families grappling with adolescent e-cigarette addiction points to previously unseen consequences of use among teens. Several families have sued Juul, accusing it of causing nicotine addiction in their children and describing extreme addiction symptoms.

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E-cigarettes use nicotine, chemicals, and flavorings that are heated by battery and produce an aerosol. The added ingredients are heated and then inhaled into the persons lungs. When the individual exhales, the aerosol can also be breathed in by the surrounding bystanders. They can also be used to partake in other drugs via inhalation (“Quick Facts on the Risks of E-Cigarettes for Kids, Teens, And Young Adults”, 2019). So far, studies have shown that the different flavors have made the e-cigarette more appealing to our youth. Many youth have reported that they started using the e-cigarettes due to the variety of flavors and the sleek advertising that has been used. Lower cost of the product verses cost of cigarettes is also a factor in usage by middle and high school students. The use if these products have also risen due to the fact that the youth feel that are less harmful than traditional cigarettes. The widespread marketing targets the high and middles schoolers via social media. This also makes it seem less harmful that it actually is (“Quick Facts on the Risks of E-Cigarettes for Kids, Teens, And Young Adults”, 2019). One example is the “diffuser” that promotes sleep. This product uses melatonin, lavender, and chamomile

This is promoted via Instagram. It has been noted that because “something doesn’t taste like tobacco doesn’t mean it is safe”,Konkel (2017). It has been shown that flavors, for example cinnamon, can be more harmful when heated and inhaled. A suggestion has been made to eliminate all flavorings could be one way of dissuading our youth from trying e-cigarettes (Konkel, 2017).

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In the long run, people who have stayed sober for a while, either because they were in jail or in treatment, should know that they are at a high risk of overdose if they relapse and take the same amount of drug they used to. Their cravings may not have decreased, but their tolerance has, meaning their body can’t handle high doses of the drug anymore. Without immediate treatment, overdose often leads to death

This is why you often hear about people dying of an overdose soon after leaving rehab.

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A Historical Timeline of Electronic Cigarettes(2019). Retrieved from http://www.casaa.org/historical-timeline-of-electronic-cigarettes/

Konkel, L. (2017). Concerns explode over new health risks of vaping. Retrieved from https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/article/concerns-explode-over-new-health-risks-vaping

Korbey, H. (2018). Schools Respond to the Rise of Student Vaping. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/article/schools-respond-rise-student-vaping

Treisman, R. (2019). Want To Get Rid Of Your Vaping Device? The DEA Will Take It. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/10/25/773105201/want-to-get-rid-of-your-vaping-device-the-dea-will-take-it

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