With all the new advances in modern technology, everything as we know it is constantly updating and evolving. So what about an age-old practice that for many years has been passed down from generation to generation?
Cigarettes, for one, have seen their perception go from a popular habit to a disgraced, almost entirely taboo one.
Since the early 1960s it has been common knowledge that smoking kills. There are 43 known cancer causing chemicals – or carcinogens – such as tar, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, etc.
However, since the harmful effects of cigarette use came to light, more than 1 billion people – roughly 20 percent of the world’s population – continue to smoke. Tobacco causes nearly 6 million deaths worldwide per year.
“I think eventually cigarettes are going to be a thing of the past, hopefully,” said Oxford High junior Sam Pegues.
The main reason for so much consistent use is the addiction to the nicotine received from smoking the tobacco. Nicotine is highly addictive and can increase blood pressure and heart rate, which is not normally harmful to the healthy person unless consumed in high dosages.
It can also relieve stress which is a main factor in the addiction. Nicotine has also been known to increase neuroplasticity, which alters the brain’s nervous system to receive electrical and chemical signals from neurons. Neuroplasticity relating to nicotine can be known to stimulate memory and alertness.
Nicotine withdrawal is where many find quitting difficult. It can leave an intense craving as well as headaches, nausea, constipation, restlessness and anxiety. Because of this immense obstacle that quitting can cause, many forms of nicotine replacement therapy have originated. These include nicotine gum, patches, and prescription medications like varenicline (Chantix). Sometimes even these don’t do the trick.
“I really didn’t think I was ever going to be able to quit smoking,” said Oxford VaporWize owner Robb Barham. “I have tried everything that is out there. Nothing did anything to help.
“They didn’t help me quit, and just unpleasant side effects, especially chantix.”
Barham was introduced to vaping by a coworker after struggling to quit smoking, and working with his co-worker to run the vapor shops in the Memphis area, brought this franchise to Oxford. Barham says he has helped countless others who have come into his shop to quit smoking; he’s even had customers come in after being referred by their cancer center.
In 2003, the first modern electronic cigarette was introduced. E-cigs (electronic nicotine delivery systems) or vaporizers are battery-powered heating devices that heat liquid usually containing nicotine, flavoring, and other chemicals to create a vapor. This vapor is less detrimental to the lungs because there are no hazards of toxic by-products due to combustion. E-cigs, or vapes can come in many forms that can resemble traditional tobacco cigarettes, cigars and pipes. They also come in pen models that resemble long cylinders with mouth pieces, but the newer models are bigger and boxier with refillable tanks.
The point of these are to stimulate similar effects of cigarettes by delivering nicotine without the other harmful chemicals. The main chemicals in e-cig vapors are nicotine, propylene glycol, vegetable glycerol, and others to create the flavoring. None of these are known to have high toxicity.
“The potential for tobacco harm reduction products to reduce the burden of smoking related disease is very large,” 53 specialists in nicotine science and public health policy wrote in a statement to Dr. Margaret Chan, the director-general of the World Health Organization, “and these products could be among the most significant health innovations of the 21st century – perhaps saving hundreds of millions of lives.”
Studies have also pointed out that the inhalation of the vapor can cause “popcorn lung,” a upper respiratory problem that can line the inside of one’s lungs with bumps. “Popcorn lung” was first studied when factory workers working in popcorn packaging became exposed to too much diacetyl, which is a common additive used to preserve or create the buttery substance on prepackaged popcorn.
Although no known cases of popcorn lung have been discovered from vaping, diacetyl has been found in certain e-liquids such as caramel, which the recipes have since been changed. Large amounts of diacetyl can also be found in cigarettes, yet “popcorn lung” has not been reported from smoking. However, with how recently the first vaporizer came out, the long-term effects of vaping have not been thoroughly tested.
E-cigarettes are not currently regulated by the FDA, so there are no accepted measures to confirm purity. This said, one of the perks of vaping to overcome addiction are the customizable levels of nicotine in the bottles of liquid or e-juice. Each bottle has a label with the amount of nicotine in it which could be 0, 3, 6 , 12, 18, 24, and even 36 milligrams. This is meek in comparison to the average 12 mg per cigarette, whereas a 30 mg bottle of juice can last, depending on how often one vapes, nearly a week.
There have been no cases of overdosing from inhaling e-liquid, but like everything containing nicotine, too much can cause nausea and lightheadedness.
“It was just like a cure,” Barham said. “To me it was amazing. I never thought there would be a day where there are billboards, you know in Chicago, that say vaping is evil.”
Campaigns around Chicago have called for an extra tax on tobacco products and their liquids, a ban on vaping in public places where tobacco is prohibited, and billboards reading “Vaping: Liquid poison” and “Vaping: It’s still addiction.”
“We are deeply concerned that the classification of these products as tobacco and their inclusion in the FCTC (WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control) will do more harm than good, and obstruct efforts to meet the targets to reduce non-communicable disease we are all committed to,” the 53 specialists in nicotine science and public health policy wrote in a statement to the WHO.
Pegues, who is 18, says vaping is being blown out of proportion.
“People just don’t want something new,” he said. “The big tobacco companies – of course they are going to want to push tobacco.
They are trying to X-out their competition, which is vaping, because it has grown over the last few years.”
“The fact is that this has the potential to save billions of lives by 2040,” Barham said, “but that would also lose certain companies a lot of money.”
There has been a lot of controversy to go along with this new device. The use of vapes has increased in middle school and high school students since 2012 when 1.8 million U.S. students reported having tried them. The advertisement to youth and the appeal of sweet or candy-flavored juices have raised questions of whether e-cigarettes should be treated the same as tobacco products with restricted advertising to kids. Right now, as like anything containing nicotine, juices cannot be sold to those under the age of 18.
What is it about vaping that is so attractive? OHS senior Harry Tyner says he first started vaping when attending a Weezer concert where starter-kit vapes were thrown out and after he suffered bad effects from smoking cigarettes.
“The taste. It tastes so good,” Tyner said. “It is also something to do when you drive, as it doesn’t stink up your car.
“Cigarettes and cigars, they smell good at first, kind of, but after you start smoking for a long time, your clothes just start really smelling bad.”