Vape Culture Grows, Still Nobody Knows

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BY STEPHANIE GATES

vapeSo-called “vape culture” is sweeping through the youth of the nation with very little regulation of how vape smoke is made and even less research into its effects on human beings.

Electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), otherwise known as e-cigarettes, vape pens, hookah pens, or vape mods, can be used to smoke a variety of substances including marijuana, in public places without trouble due to reduced smoke and smell.

The larger vaporizer brands like Blu and Greensmoke are actually owned by the tobacco companies that were found guilty of marketing cigarettes to children. With hundreds of flavors available to smoke in vapor form, there is a growing concern among anti-tobacco veterans that tobacco companies will dominate this new industry largely by marketing to children as they used to market cigarettes.

To speak about this new culture and activity, Lacey Benjamin of the Mid-Hudson Prevention Resource Center (MHPRC) presented the topic at the Haverstraw Collaborative meeting Wednesday, a monthly meeting of community organizations in the Haverstraw area. She that children could become addicted to nicotine through the new vape machines.

ENDS is a new industry and product that is considered different than the heavily banned practice of smoking tobacco so most buildings and even schools do not yet prohibit or regulate ENDS. Ms. Benjamin said, “I don’t see how people were so up in arms about the tobacco industry but they’re not about this [ENDS]”

In fact, according to statistics from MHPRC, only three states have prohibited electronic smoking indoors, and zero have regulations for outdoor electronic smoking. Vaporizers are legally produced to smoke e-liquid or e-juice that may or may not contain nicotine, depending on the request of the customer. E-liquid is mixed right in front of the customer in smoke shops to the requested amount of nicotine.

E-cigarettes are often bought to quit smoking of tobacco, but the FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research has not approved the use of ENDS as a safe or effective method to help smokers quit. Many ENDS users find that they smoke more often or inhale more nicotine because of their discreet nature.

There is a common misconception that e-liquid is simply water vapor. While vaporizers seem harmless, the truth is that they have not been on the market long enough to confirm one way or the other. There are however no regulations for the ingredients of the e-liquid, regardless of if it contains nicotine. Benjamin explains that e-liquid has been tested to contain all sorts of substances in different combinations and concentrations, one of which being formaldehyde, and that many vape shop owners couldn’t tell you what is in it if asked. As far as the legal liquid goes, the FDA requires e-liquid manufactures to submit a list of their ingredients, but it will not have any standardized list of prohibited ingredients until 2019; in other words, there could be just about anything in the liquid.

As for the illegal substances that can be “vaped”, marijuana is often smoked from inside the vaporizers in the form of dabs, wax, and shatter, all of which are created from boiling butane soaked marijuana to create a THC concentrate substance. Many fires, explosions, and injuries have resulted from both children and adults attempting this process on their own. There are many known side-affect to smoking high amounts of cannabis. In addition, there is a potential to insert methamphetamines or crack-cocaine in vaporizers.

Benjamin clarified, “This [ENDS] could be ten times healthier than cigarettes. The point is that we don’t know. We don’t know what’s in it.”

As usage of ENDS in youth continues to grow and regulations do not, many prevention resource centers like MHPRC are working hard to educate the public on these new devices.

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