UTA professors to conduct study comparing the health effects of vaping to cigarettes

E-cigarettes have risen in popularity as an alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes, but the effects of the new technology are still being studied.

Broadcasting junior Zariah Hollman said she was peer pressured into trying her first vape when she was in high school.

“They come up with those fake myths like ‘Oh this will wake you up,’ ‘This will make you sleepy,”’ Hollman said. “My friend was like, ‘This will make you feel better. You’re having a bad day, take a hit of this. You’ll get a little buzz.’” 

Years later, irritation and stress keep her vaping, she said. 

Electronic cigarettes have been the most common tobacco product among high school students since 2014, according to the Centers for Disease and Prevention Control. In 2020, 19.6% of high school students said they vaped,  5% used cigars and 4.6% used cigarettes.

“It’s easier to grab, easier to smoke, easier to vape,” said Abed Masad, Arlington Tic Tok Smokie manager. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized e-cigarettes marketed by R.J. Reynolds under the brand name Vuse to be sold in the U.S. for the first time Oct. 12. The FDA said the product was less toxic than combustible cigarettes and would help smokers to reduce their cigarette use. 

There are many different types of e-cigarettes, vape pens and pod modifications. The latest vapes have features such as lights, Bluetooth connection and USB chargers, which grab the attention of today’s youth, said Noeman Sheikh, Arlington Royal Smoke Shop owner. 

“Most of the time they are trying to look “cool” with the puffs because they are getting fancier and fancier,” Sheikh said. 

The variety of flavors and different levels of the strengths of nicotine entices young adults to try vaping and the cheap cost motivates them to continue because it’s available anywhere and everywhere. 

Most adolescents who use e-cigarettes start with flavored varieties. In 2021, 84.7% of surveyed youths used flavored e-cigarettes, according to the CDC. The FDA blocked the sale of more 55,000 flavored e-cigarette products in August.

“I believe most adolescents vape because they are curious about the trendy e-cigarette devices and various flavors, including fruit, candy, mint and menthol,” kinesiology assistant professor Ziyad Ben Taleb said in an email. “In addition, adolescents have become more likely to use e-cigarettes due to targeted marketing, especially on social media.” 

Many e-cigarette and vaping companies offered students scholarships from $250 to $5,000 to write essays highlighting the dangers of tobacco and whether vaping could be a safer alternative in 2018. 

“People are curious,” broadcasting senior Trevion Hicks said. “That was me. I always wondered, ‘What is it?’ ‘What does it do?’” 

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, even though vaping is less harmful than cigarettes, young adults can still become addicted since they contain nicotine. 

While an average cigarette contains about 10 to 12 milligrams of nicotine, an e-cigarette typically has a wide range of nicotine from 0.5 to 15.4 milligrams of nicotine, according to healthline.com.

“There are several reports of e-cigarette batteries that have malfunctioned and caused explosions, leading to severe injuries in some cases,” Taleb said. “E-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is a highly addictive substance that can have a detrimental effect especially on the brain development among adolescents.” 

Vaping creates a feeling of relaxation, and young adults vape to reduce their stress and anxiety levels. 

“It reduces stress,” Hicks said. “It calms me down.”

Sheikh said there are two types of people that come to his store. He recommends people who smoke cigarettes to vape because it does not cost as much and a vape lasts longer. However, he said he would not encourage a non-smoker to try e-cigarettes. 

If somebody is not a smoker at all, they should not be vaping, he said. 

@ward_sakeik

features-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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