Full-scale epidemic: Vaping has skyrocketed in popularity among youth

By Kamryn Guye

The long-term effects of vaping are still unknown, according to Mary Gillette, Alamance County Tobacco Prevention Manager. [AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File

The Surgeon General has defined vaping among youth as a full-scale epidemic.
Over the last three years, vaping has skyrocketed in popularity, mainly among teens and high school-aged youth.
    With a surge of new technology flooding the tobacco and e-cigarette industry, it’s difficult for parents, teachers and scientists to keep up with so many changes in such a rapidly developing market.
    Vaping is still a relatively new trend. E-cigarettes didn’t hit the market until around 2004. But the surge in popularity didn’t come for another decade when JUUL was founded in 2015. With such a compact design and dozens of appealing flavors, JUUL seemed to be the perfect alternative to traditional cigarettes. Soon after its release onto the market, reports surfaced claiming that vaping was better than smoking, and that JUUL was in fact a way to help people quit all together.
    Mary Gillett, Region Five Tobacco Prevention Manager, said in a recent interview that switching has almost never helped people quit tobacco and nicotine all together.
    Vaping has become especially popular among high school-aged youth, especially with the development of JUUL, since it closely resembles a flash drive and is even charged using a USB port.
    It’s easier than ever to obtain, with many youth simply asking someone who is of age to purchase it for them, buying the item online, or purchasing it through the black market. This is particularly alarming, considering items purchased on the black market are not safety tested and are known to be far more dangerous than items purchased legally, since they’re unregulated.
    Recently, there has been a spike in deaths and serious lung injury linked to vaping, but doctors are still baffled as to why. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the lung injuries, related to vaping, was just shy of 2,000 and the number of deaths has risen to 38.
    With the danger of vaping becoming more known to the public, Gillett had only one thing to say to people who currently vape, “Quit now.”
       “Because vaping is still such a new technology, we don’t know the long-term effects of it yet,” she said. “We do know that it has effects T-cells, and can lead to a weakened immune system, and can also lead to things like popcorn lung.”
    “It may be another 15 to 20 years before we’re able to study the long-term effects of vaping,” she added.
    Truth Initiative offers free programs for both teens and adults who wish to quit using tobacco and nicotine. Truth also offers resources to parents of teens who vape.
    This information and more can be accessed on their website at www.truthinitiative.com under the help quitting tab in the top right corner.
Kamryn Guye is a senior at Williams High School and a Times-News intern. She can be reached at 336-506-3038. 
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