Nowadays, you see them everywhere: vape shops, Juul boxes, pods, and batteries littered in the bathrooms and on the sidewalks. Vaping has taken the United States by storm as a relatively new medium of recreational drug use, and one that is especially popular in the teenage demographic.
There is no doubt that vaping is more than just that, however. It has become a culture in it of itself. From the casual sellers and users to those who participate and compete in vaping competitions, like the “Cloud Championships,” (yes, it’s a real thing) the vaping community is quite diverse in the many uses e-cigarettes can provide.
Without many of the harmful chemicals associated with tobacco cigarettes, many people have come to believe that the use of electronic cigarettes is a healthy alternative to the traditional and more deadly side effects tobacco smoking provides. However, is the use of e-cigarettes truly safe?
Without question, there are dangers to vaping. Just last month, the FDA warned 40 companies for selling e-cigarettes to minors with packaging resembling those of candy or soda. Such shameless packaging surely attracts more kids to buy e-cigarettes, and in doing so begins to give minors their first experiences with narcotics. The presence of nicotine in some brands, most notably Juul, creates an addiction that can serve as a gateway to real cigarettes. With vape companies marketing their products in this child-friendly way, it reinforces the idea that vaping is completely safe and acceptable, when in reality the true consequences of using e-cigarettes are still a mystery.
Okay, so there are dangers. There are companies out there to grab teenage money by hooking them on e-cigarettes. There are potential health risks from vaping. But do the positives outweigh the negatives?
Let’s now look at this from the opposite perspective: the longtime tobacco smoker. For smokers, dropping most or all of tobacco cigarettes’ chemicals for e-cigarettes would ameliorate their health, and possibly wean them off smoking for good. If every current smoker were to adopt vaping as an alternative, not only would the public health of smokers dramatically benefit; general public health would be improved. There would be less air pollution, and a nearly nonexistent risk for second-hand smoking, as vapes only emit water vapor during use. Sounds like a win-win.
From a younger perspective though, it could be a different story. If vaping is a teen’s first glimpse of the drug world, it hooks them in easily, with sleek and small devices that can be easily operated and charged. This obviously runs against the goal of helping addicted smokers to quit. But even still, it’s better to start on vaping than on tobacco smoking. The less lethal chemicals inhaled, the better.
In my opinion, vaping isn’t as bad as parents and the media make it out to be. I personally do not vape, but I have little against it. I do not want to put myself in the potential situation of addiction or worse, but I don’t think that vaping is a chronic epidemic that needs instant eradication. Juul states that it is designed for smokers, claiming that it “was created to be a satisfying alternative to cigarettes… to improve the lives of the world’s one billion adult smokers,” even though pundits may disagree with that statement.
Every for-profit organization is out to make money, and Juul is no different. Their targeted demographic is adult smokers, even though teens take the spotlight as the ones comprising the largest part of its user base. But how can Juul be faulted for that? If we take Juul’s statement for what it’s worth, then they don’t necessarily intend to hook kids on their product. It then appears that teens are getting caught in the crossfire of this heated topic, just for using Juuls recreationally, and not for Juul’s proclaimed mission against tobacco smoking. Juul and other companies who claim similar motives are then portrayed as the evildoers, just because kids are using their product more than their intended demographic of adult smokers.
So, Juul and other e-cigarette companies may not be as malicious as the media displays. Vaping and the use of e-cigarettes may not be as harmful as critics warn. I do not endorse vaping, nor will I foresee myself doing it in the future, but the industry and culture that e-cigarette companies have created are ones where they aim to help quit smoking, ridding our bodies of toxins, and ultimately improving public health while still allowing for some personal pleasure. I acknowledge the risks, but I find vaping to be a relatively harmless endeavor, or one that is at least more harmless than society argues.
It’s a healthier alternative. It’s a growing culture. It’s Vape Nation.
Graphics: Ryan Rhew