On his way to meet his friends for the first time since the pandemic, Onondaga Community College student Sam Doyle is frantically trying to remember everything he needs to bring with him. He makes sure to grab his phone, wallet, keys, and his vape. Doyle, like many, is a regular user of e-cigarettes, or vapes. Much like other users, Doyle makes sure to bring his vape, filled up, everytime he goes out with friends. He doesn’t want to be the odd one out.
“I vape pretty much everyday. I probably spend about 60 dollars a month on vaping products alone” says Doyle. “It is really expensive to keep up right now”.
Vaping has become an epidemic itself in recent years, with the number of active users skyrocketing since the beginning of the last decade. The advertisement describing it as a safer alternative to smoking has led many picking up the activity. Of these new users, a large portion are young adults going to high school or college.
“I started when I was 18, and I’m 21 now. When I was going to parties in high school, everyone was vaping, so I decided to try it. It was a social thing so that’s how I got into it”, says Doyle.
Doyle is one of many young adults who found the idea of vaping as a fun way to socialize with his peers. Many new users will describe a similar reason as to why they first started to vape. One Brockport junior, who asked to remain anonymous, described how they got into the “hobby” much like Doyle.
“I got into it my freshman year of college, because the people I surrounded myself with my first year all vaped”, they said.
This user quickly became a regular user themselves after being introduced to vaping. Soon after, they found their monthly budget for the hobby skyrocketing.
“I don’t vape as much as I did my first two years, but when I was I used to probably drop around 300 dollars a month”, they said.
This user, despite slowing his use in recent years, still sees the effect of the hobby everyday. Along with spending large sums of money to continue the practice, they also described the worry of their health from this prolonged use.
“Yes, I have been thinking about stopping a lot recently. I have noticed problems breathing, and I also feel very sluggish and unfocused nowadays”, they said.
These are just a few of the possible side effects vaping regularly can have. Kaitlin Dunning, RN at Strong Memorial Hospital, described some of the other mental and physical effects she has seen vaping do to people.
“Prolonged use can lead to complications similar to cigarette use. Lung tissue damage, lung cancer, and respiratory complications are all possible,” said Dunning. “I have had to treat people suffering from nicotine withdrawal. The Largest demographic of vape users I see in the hospital are teenagers and young adults”.
While Dunning and others have seen many side effects that come from vaping, she believes the worst of the possible effects still haven’t even been seen, due to the lack of research on such a new type of drug.
“There is much more research needed to complete our understanding of future complications, especially as vape culture grows to include various companies and varieties of chemicals available to purchase”, says Dunning.
Until the products have been out long enough to see the true effects of extended use, the only certainty from medical staff like Dunning is that no matter what, prolonged use will have even more severe effects on people than they do right now. While the FDA has made new laws to try and slow the increase of young users getting hooked to these products, the popularity of vaping devices continues to remain. Many young adults like Doyle continue to be lured into the false safety that vapes provide over other smoking alternatives. And like Doyle, many of these young adults will spend much of their college lives addicted to these devices. Unless a more aggressive stance is taken by governments on these companies, then this epidemic will surely spiral out of control.