Vaping: An increasing complication for young adults

More than half of the patients hospitalized for an illness linked to vaping are under the age of 25. (Photo Illustration by George Walker | The Collegian)

Take a stroll down Manhattan Avenue around 10 a.m. and observe: a handful of students walk to class, leaving thick puffs behind them. Clouds of smoke drift from an open car window. Even in the classroom, a student may cover their mouth with their shirt, trapping the smoke from a vape rip.

In September, the BBC released statistics that show as of 2018, 41 million people vape worldwide. In fact, according to a report released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States, more than half of the total 530 patients who have been hospitalized for a lung disease thought to be a result of vaping are under the age of 25.

Among K-State students, the reasons for vaping are varied.

“I didn’t start out vaping, I smoked cigarettes,” Brittany Granger, senior in agronomy, said.

Granger said she has vaped for about two years. She began smoking cigarettes in high school, but moved to vaping products to try and stop smoking completely. This has not been an easy feat. Granger said she has tried to stop, but the power of nicotine is hard to overcome.

“I’ve very addicted to nicotine,” Granger said. “That’s why I still do it.”

Granger explained the negative physical effects of vaping are what drive her to stop. She said she gets bronchitis very easily, that she’s had it several times, and she doesn’t remember getting it when she smoked cigarettes. However, Granger said other vaping symptoms are not nearly as bad as when she smoked cigarettes.

“When I used to smoke cigarettes, I would have tightness in my chest, and I would be out of breath walking down the street,” Granger said. “I played sports in high school and running was so hard for me because I felt like I couldn’t get enough air.”

With vaping, she said these symptoms are not as bad as they used to be, but they are definitely still there.

Carter Rands, sophomore in business, was introduced to vaping last year by a friend, a common way of exposure. Rands said he began vaping because his friend had a Juul, and it was fun, but the more he did it the more he became hooked on it.

“I’ve been trying to stop doing it for a while, but, I mean, it’s hard,” Rands said.

Rands said recent stories about the dangers of vaping worry him, and he doesn’t want to end up like those kids. He said he has noticed lately that he has a slight cough. He doesn’t know if this a result of vaping or the approaching flu season, but it concerns him all the same.

Another reason students vape is to cope with stress. Paige Hieger, junior in human development and family science, does just that.

Hieger, who uses a vaping device called a Vladdin, said her relationship with vaping started a year ago and began really slow as she used vaping to get her mind off things. Her habit rapidly increased as she began using vaping as a means of reducing stress. Since she uses it as a coping mechanism, the more stressed she is, the more she does it.

“Everyone always thinks ‘I’m not going to get addicted,’ and then they do,” Hieger said. “That’s definitely what happened to me. I probably go through half a pod a day, maybe a full pod. It depends if I’m really stressed that day. So, that’s about half a pack of cigarettes, which is really bad.”

For Hieger, the physical effects of vaping are present and she is aware of them. She said she has a really bad cough as a result of vaping that generally kicks in five minutes after she uses her Vladdin. Recently, she’s been feeling nauseous after using her vape, which she finds concerning.

“I’m aware of the medical risks associated with vaping, and I would like to stop, it’s just hard,” Hieger said.

Hieger said she believes smoking cigarettes is worse than vaping, but like cigarettes, she thinks it is a possibility that vaping will have dramatic physical consequences in the future if she keeps using it like she does. Hieger said she sees the effects of smoking cigarettes on her father, and she doesn’t want those to happen to her.

Hieger said she can stop — she didn’t vape for nearly all of July. However, when she came back to school this fall and her stress began to increase, she began to crave it more and she fell back into it. Despite this, Hieger is learning different ways of managing her stress and she plans of quitting vaping completely when she graduates next year.

Lafene Health center uses recommendations by the CDC as a guide for the information they distribute to their patients.

According to reports by CDC, the number of youths who use e-cigarettes increased by 1.5 billion between 2017 and 2018.

Most E-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is an addictive drug. As the human brain continues to develop until around the age of 25, the CDC claims that nicotine can cause harmful effects in young adults and can cause the brain to not develop properly.

Lafene nursing coordinator Abby King said, using nicotine in adolescence can harm parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood, impulse control and may increase the risk for future addictions with other drugs.

“They’re seeing cancer-causing chemicals like heavy metals, such as nickel, tin and lead, in the juice used for vaping,” King said. “There’s a lot of stuff in that liquid that could be very harmful. CDC says that e-cigs are safer than cigarettes, but that doesn’t mean that e-cigarettes are safe by any means.”

Jessica Blasi, Lafene’s alcohol and other drug education director, said youths and young adults are vulnerable because they don’t always know the risks of vaping but can easily access the products online, therefore avoiding the age restrictions put in place to try and protect them.

Blasi said the dangers of addiction are vast. Addiction can impact health, both physical and mental, can lead to a psychological or physical dependence on the substance and can interfere with relationships and work.

Lafene said they have not seen any increase in clinical cases that would be indicative of a rise in bodily complications due to vaping in students. However, if they were to see an indication of this, they are required to report it to CDC for research on the matter.

Lafene’s staff encourages any student who is need of support due to their struggles with addiction to vaping, or another kind of substance, to use their health center as a resource and to make an appointment.