How does a teenager die from vaping when he hasn’t even been on this earth long enough to develop the type of cancer his parents and grandparents may have gotten from smoking cigarettes? Yet, somehow hundreds of serious cases of vaping-related illness and lung disease have emerged across the nation, including at least a few deaths. How does vaping – the thing that was supposed to help smokers kick the habit – turn out to be a killer itself?
Obviously, there is too much we still don’t know about the dangers of vaping. Although it should be fairly obvious that if we choose to regularly inhale something other than oxygen into our respiratory systems, it probably won’t go well. At the very least, we should know exactly what it is and what it does to our bodies in both the short and long term.
After decades of public service announcements and billions of dollars spent educating the public on the dangers of smoking, we had finally made significant headway. Today’s teens were much less likely to pick up a cigarette than their predecessors. Smoking was becoming an unhealthy relic of the past, thoroughly unappealing to today’s youth.
Enter … vaping. Touted as a sleek, new, healthy alternative to your granddad’s or your mom’s cigarette, vaping was quickly accepted and the industry boomed. Here we go again with the desire for money trampling all over the value and quality of human life. After years of deception in the tobacco industry, you’d think we’d have learned better by now. With all the technology available to us – fingertip available – you’d think we’d be smarter than this and not fall for the lies so easily.
Coupled with the legalization of marijuana in 11 states, vaping has become all about smoking whatever you want. You want lots of nicotine or just a little? If THC, CBD, or hemp are more your style, have at it. The tolerance dogma has taken us to a point where anything goes; whatever one feels like putting in the custom vape pod must be worth a try. What about the chemical interactions, the conversion from liquid to vapor, and the amount of toxins being inhaled? Such questions just get in the way of having a good time, right? I’m sure you’ve heard the line “It’s my business what I do with my own body; I’m not hurting anyone, but myself.”
In order to follow that unsupported line of thinking, one would have to accept the idea that when that individual collapses from “not hurting anyone but themselves”, no one would be expected to lend aid, no emergency workers would be summoned, no healthcare workers would be needed, and of course, that person would have full insurance coverage and not expect any kind of financial aid.
Furthermore, one would have to believe that what one person does in society has no effect on the population as a whole; and that a new wave of addicted smokers wouldn’t burden the healthcare system, cause lost work hours, hurt loved ones, and influence others to smoke. Not only that, but history has proven the demand for this type of habit always leads to the emergence of street markets that take advantage of the newness and lack of regulation. And like in the past, when things are purchased on the street, it is done at one’s own risk.
Product manipulation, contamination, and lack of sanitation and knowledge make dangerous bedfellows. It’s not until people start dying that we realize the extent of the risk. Yet, common sense tells us that when people sell something on the street, they are there for one reason only: to make money. These street-trepreneurs regularly cut product, add fillers to stretch inventory, and ignore common kitchen sanitation and safety guidelines. So, why would you risk buying from them? Of course, the answer circles right back around to money – the almighty dollar.
It begs the question: why are our young people so desperate to get high? Are they so bored, unhappy, devalued, indifferent, pressured, thrill-seeking or addicted that they feel compelled to find an outlet? Why didn’t preteens, teens and young adults fall prey to these types of addictions fifty years ago? What is so different now?
Unfortunately, it seems today’s young people have more viable and accessible choices as to how they want to destroy their lives than those who grew up a few generations ago: vaping, smoking, opioids and other illicit drugs, risky sexual activities, gambling, and dangerous online challenges.
Perhaps a more in-depth look at the societal standards and norms can lead to answers. But until then, we’ll have to monitor and stand for the health of our teens and young adults, because they have already shown their inability or unwillingness to do so for themselves.