E-cigarettes started off looking more like conventional cigarettes, marketed to adults as a way to try to kick the traditional habit. But in the past few years, there have been big changes
“Some look like cell phones, cigars and they all work the same way,” University of Tampa Professor Mary Martinasek said.
She was a respiratory specialist for more than 20 years before she started studying the effects of smoking hookah and now vaping. One of the most troublesome aspects of young people picking up a vape pen is the potential for it to rewire their young brains.
“The brain develops from the back to the front, and the prefrontal cortex doesn't develop until about the age of 25,” Martinasek points out.
One vape pod is the equivalent of a pack of traditional cigarettes. High levels of nicotine can have negative effects.
“It affects cognition, it affects memory, it affects executive functioning,” she adds. ”In fact, the nicotine where these young adults had started smoking cigarettes years ago, now are having issues with substance abuse, they're having issues with mental health concerns.”
The Food and Drug Administration also warned of the potential for seizures from using products with high levels of nicotine. Martinasek says e-cigarette company Juul's most popular flavor is mango, which has the highest level of nicotine of all the Juul products.
“The college students say the reason they like it is cause of the head rush, and that head rush is that incredibly high level of nicotine,” Martinasek said.
She says students often think vaping is merely water vapor so they're not fully aware of the consequences.
“Their youth brain isn't developed, and they're very less risk-averse, so they're more likely to try products," Martinasek explained.
Males are more likely than females to vape.
“It was something that my buddies would do,” College student Nathaniel George Edwards told 10 News.
Some students like Trevor Graber say their friends introduced them to vaping. “Just to see what would happen, the experience to see what the effect of getting high would be from it.”
Martinasek says the best way to help keep your child from vaping is to be knowledgeable and have an organic conversation like if you pass a vape shop ask what they know and tell them about what you read.
“They'll be able to make informed decisions and they'll talk with their friends...and be able to share with more of these young adults," she said.
A good resource for parents is the surgeon general's website. There are resources like a tip sheet on talking to your kids.
A spokesperson for Juul released the following statement:
"JUUL Labs, Inc exists to help adult smokers switch from combustible cigarettes, which remain the leading cause of preventable death around the world. JUUL is an alternative that can help the 34 million adults in this country who still smoke. We do not want non-nicotine users to buy JUUL products, and are committed to preventing underage access to our products. We strongly support raising the national minimum purchasing age for all tobacco and vapor products to 21, and have implemented a comprehensive action plan to combat underage access, appeal, and use of JUUL products.
"We stopped the sale of non-tobacco and non-menthol-based flavored JUULpods to traditional retail stores, implemented enhanced online age-verification technology that also restricts bulk purchases, strengthened retailer compliance through our expanded secret shopper program, and exited our Facebook and Instagram accounts."
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