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E-cigarettes, chipping away at your life without you even noticing
Written by Ria Ju | Published. 2022.01.19 22:56 | Count : 739

[An example of a vaping device. Photo Credit: Ria Ju]

 

 

Adolescent vaping in Korea has been rising in popularity, with around one out of every fifty teenagers routinely vaping (e-cigarettes) at least once a month (Korea Youth Health Behaviour Survey, 2020). Shockingly, many of these ‘teen vapers’ first come into contact with e-cigarettes even before entering high school.

Their motives have various reasons: pure curiosity, desire to imitate a friend or family member who vapes, or interest in trying the diverse flavors of e-cigarettes. Despite the rapidly increasing number of young vapers, the lurking effects and consequences of vaping remain poorly understood by many, which is a problem that must be addressed. 

Vaping involves the use of e-cigarettes, which are small electronic devices shaped like USB flash drives that heat a liquid until it is vaporized into an aerosol, a mixture of various chemicals -- some of which are known to be toxic. When inhaled, the vaporised aerosol, which contains nicotine and various flavorings, enters the lungs.

The device can be reused multiple times until its battery runs out, after which it requires recharging. The liquid from which the aerosol is made, however, is limited, so it must be replaced regularly.

Dr. Jieun Kim, who works in the field of dentistry, commented on the effects of adolescent vaping. According to Dr. Kim, the use of e-cigarettes is detrimental to dental health in three ways: first, it has adverse effects on the periodontal tissue; second, it decreases the salivation rate; and lastly, it can cause various oral diseases such as oral cancer.

She claimed that, although it is true that e-cigarettes are comparatively less dangerous than regular cigarettes in that they do not produce any sidestream smoke or tar, a Class 1 carcinogen, arising from the burning of chemicals, they are not completely free from risk since they still contain substantial amounts of other harmful substances such as nicotine. 

Additionally, she mentioned the risk of overuse, “as e-cigarette users can adjust the amount of nicotine they consume arbitrarily.” She continued, “And, once you are addicted to nicotine, it is not easy to quit smoking, so the earlier in life you start smoking, the longer you will be exposed to nicotine. In fact, nicotine is known to be just as addictive as heroin or cocaine, and smokers become more physically, mentally, and emotionally dependent on nicotine over time.”

Dr. Yoon-Seok Chun, who holds a Ph.D. in exercise physiology, elaborated more on the harmful effects of vaping on one’s athletic abilities, especially those of teenagers. He asserted that the toxicity of nicotine to the cells and tissues of adolescents, who have not yet completed their physical development, is serious, as “it increases the production of free radicals in the body and increases oxidative stress, thereby promoting chronic diseases and aging, inhibiting the growth of brain cells and bone marrow, and encouraging memory loss and anxiety.” 

Furthermore, he mentioned Vitamin E acetate, a substance present in e-cigarettes that is deleterious to one’s lungs when breathed in as a gas. He maintained, “As the correlation between exercise capacity and lung function is quite high, and the lungs are responsible for supplying oxygen necessary during exercise, vaping certainly decreases one’s athletic ability.” 

Besides, other experts described different aspects of the effect vaping has on one’s health. For instance, Dr. Sung-ki Park, an expert in orthopedics, noted that “nicotine constricts blood vessels, narrowing the blood vessels of growth plates, and lowers the absorption rate of calcium, which interferes with cell division and bone growth.”

He supported his argument with a report stating that adolescent smokers are, on average, an inch shorter than non-smokers. Dr. Jung-Min Lee, who works in education, provided me with some studies showing that academically low-achieving students are more likely to use e-cigarettes, although the correlation itself does not prove causation.

As multiple experts have confirmed, adolescent vaping is detrimental to teenagers’ wellbeing in a wide range of ways. To conclude, all experts ended on the same note: both regular cigarettes and e-cigarettes are hazardous, and the effects are especially serious for teenagers. In all instances, the simple action of vaping must be carefully and seriously considered beforehand, and it should be discouraged especially for underdeveloped adolescents. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ria Ju

Grade 11

North London Collegiate School Jeju

 

Ria Ju  hsr@dherald.com

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