The Dangers of Vaping

Texarkana Emergency Center

Dr. Matt Young, dressed in a white lab coat over blue scrubs, is the father of a high school senior at Pleasant Grove High School. At ease standing before approximately 700 students in the school’s Performing Arts Center on a cold day in February, Dr. Young asks the crowd, “How many of you have ever seen an e-cigarette?” The crowd moans, and some raise hands. He then asks another question. “How many of you know what’s in an e-cigarette, or a Juul pod?” Fewer react.

“Did you know that one Juul cartridge pod is equal to the nicotine in a pack of 20 cigarettes? Did you know that Altria, the company that owns Phillip Morriss, Marbolo, and Copenhagen, has a 35% stake in Juul? That’s a 13.8 billion investment. Have you wondered why these e-cigarettes are candy flavored? That’s no coincidence. Tobacco companies are appealing to teens because they want you to get addicted to nicotine.”

Students begin to sit up, now listening to Dr. Young. Nobody in the crowd is older than 18, and the Medical Director for Texarkana Emergency Center explains that vaping could be causing longterm harm to their developing brains, as well as doing damage to their hearts and lungs.

“If you ask an entire room of people,” he says, “if an e-cigarette has nicotine or just flavoring, 66% of teens will say ‘it’s just flavoring.’ That is not true.”

The U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams recently called teen vaping a National Epidemic. The Surgeon General’s warning  prompted Dr. Young and Texarkana Emergency Center’s Director of Marketing, Brooke Marshall, to create a presentation as a response to the growing popularity of e-cigarettes among teens.

In his presentation, Dr. Young included the ingredients of an e-cigarette, comparisons to a regular cigarette, purported risks associated with e-cigarettes, and potential negative oral hygiene effects resulting from e-cigarette use.

Pleasant Grove High School Principal Mendy Sharp felt that it was important to have a medical doctor discuss the effects of vaping as a way to raise awareness and provide proper health education to students who might be considering this action.

After the presentation, Dr. Young and Mrs. Marshall held a question-and-answer session during which students were able to ask questions in a casual environment.  Upon release to return to classes, junior Connor Stanfill said, “I thought today was relevant because there are a lot of people in high school that use [vapes]. Students say it’s just something fun to do, and it really doesn’t matter much. They think that doing it is just a way to be cool and fit in, and there isn’t going to be any effect on them.”

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Though vaping’s long-term effects are unknown for healthy, middle-aged adults trying to quit smoking, e-cigs’ significant nicotine content does pose a threat to young people, whose brains are more susceptible to developing substance dependencies. Today’s teens live with higher-than-ever levels of anxiety; cultural climate, hyper-connectivity via technology, and increased amounts of academic and extracurricular pressure all contribute to this. As a result, teens are particularly vulnerable to nicotine’s draw, as they crave physiological calm and simultaneous stimulation. It is crucial, then, that adults provide teens with nonaddictive, health-promoting strategies for coping with day-to-day life: getting adequate sleep, eating nutritious foods, engaging in joyful movement, socializing healthfully, spending quality time with family, seeking mental-health support when required, etc. As the millions of nicotine-dependent adults can attest, warnings are not enough to curb the behavior; it is crucial, then, that we fight proactively to lessen the perceived need for such feel-good products.

“It’s important to give our young adults the education to make informed, knowledgeable decisions to use or not use these products based on the presentation,” Dr. Matt Young said. “Our goal is be a good community partner by educating our youth in the Four-States area on health issues facing them today.”

Texarkana Emergency Center is currently offering their presentation to students in area districts at no cost. Districts interested in this educational presentation for their campuses can call Brooke Marshall at Texarkana Emergency Center
at 903-838-8000.

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