What will it take to stop vaping?

In this new generation, technology has advanced and improved our everyday life; unfortunately, with this comes new consequences. E-cigarettes, known as vapes, have been around for years but haven’t become mainstream until recently. Vapes were mostly sought after by adults over the age of 21 and weren’t as commonly seen as cigarettes. Nowadays, adolescents and adults are seen with a vape in hand everywhere they go, leaving cigarettes behind and adopting an electronic version instead.

E-cigarette makers started building their presence in society and improved their branding to make it attractive. Before, vapes only came in the traditional tobacco and menthol flavors which weren’t as enjoyable to taste. Now, dozens of flavors are on the market, including bubble gum and piña colada, captivating the younger generation because of its sweet taste. I was shocked at how sweet and spot on the smell of the piña colada vapor was to an actual piña colada drink. I immediately knew that the vape juice flavors were a major reason for its popularity. Original vape sizes were pipe-like and boxy which increased the amount of smoke produced when exhaling. It was harder to hide them and smoke without being noticed. Now they’re smaller and easily portable, making it more discrete and accessible.

With the vaping industry establishing many stores in lower income areas, the addiction to nicotine worsens. Through this domino effect, the lower income community is disproportionately hit and with every purchase, debt grows. When individuals can no longer afford to buy vapes directly from the source, they resort to buying counterfeit vape cartridges that increase risk of asthma and poisoning. In my area of Chula Vista, there are more than ten vape shops within a five mile radius. To put things into perspective on how accessible vape shops are in this low-income area, there are four libraries, six parks, and five police stations within the same radius distance. It is easier to find a nearby vape shop than to find a library.

In high school, I would see my classmates buy and sell vapes in the hallways, not worrying about where they came from or what they contained. I can vividly remember when friends of mine would become anxious and lightheaded when their vapes ran out of battery or they lost them entirely. It was as if they couldn’t function without it. My younger brother has had similar experiences where he would see peers go to the restroom in groups and vape. Teachers would confiscate more vapes than phones during class. Think about that, teens can’t even wait to save up for proper in store purchases or to vape at home.

I always assumed vaping wasn’t good after hearing countless warnings to stay away from them, and now as a fourth year pre-med student at University of California, San Diego, I have studied in depth about its effects on the body. They’re known to cause high blood pressure, asthma, and tachycardia. These health problems are now commonly seen in the younger generation and are more difficult to prevent with vaping becoming a trend. Age limits and bans aren’t stopping teens from buying them, so the question is what will it take for adolescents to stop vaping and take their health seriously? I hope we find out that answer before it becomes too late.

Felix resides in Chula Vista.