It comes in flavors like bubblegum, apple and mint. It can be picked up at any gas station, as well as specialized stores.
And it may kill you.
Vaping, or e-cigarette use is suspected to be the cause of more than 530 reported cases of lung injuries across 38 states and one territory, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website. Of those 530 cases, seven individuals have died as of Sept. 19, 2019. It has yet to be seen if these risks will deter users.
E-cigarette use is on the rise with middle and high school students throughout the country. From 2017 to 2018, the amount of users rose by 78 percent in high school students and 48 percent for middle school students, according to the FDA website.
In Indiana, the state department of health also reported an increase from 10.5 percent in 2016 to 18.5 percent in 2018.
For Autumn Larkins, Ball State sophomore landscape architecture major, her use of e-cigarettes was an outlet for her to break her smoking habit, which she said had caused her problems in the past, with bad smelling clothes.
“I started smoking cigarettes when I was 14 and that's not good,” Larkins said. “It tastes bad [and] they make you smell terrible, [but] cigarettes were always around in my life. So it was just kind of inevitable that I was going to do it because my entire family smokes.”
She said she switched to vaping, not only for the lack of smell, but it gave her almost the same “buzz” as a cigarette.
“It’s interesting because [with] the articles that are coming out … I stopped buying those [types of] pods and stuff — I got rid of all my vape stuff,” Larkins said. “I’ll still smoke disposables, which they just came out with — those are very new — and I try to only smoke them if I really feel like I need that nicotine.”
Boyd Lacey, store manager at The Smoke Shop, a vape store in The Village, said he used vape products to help break a habit that made him not feel good, made his lungs hurt and was “disgusting”: cigarettes.
“Vaping was slightly better — it always made me feel a lot better. Mentally, physically, a lot better. My lungs cleared up a lot; I can breathe a lot better. Not struggling, don’t feel addicted to something,” he said.
Lacey said the recent cases with vaping illnesses and deaths are due to the use of unreliable devices or liquids. He added that distributors may cut the product with things that are dangerous to ingest. He said he believes vaping is safe and preferable.
To stay safe, he said to only buy vape products from reputable stores. If it is a cheap online product, there’s probably a reason, he said.
The basic models of vaping are e-cigarettes, vape pens and vape pods. E-cigarettes are the most similar to cigarettes, designed for regular smokers to give the same experience as their former habit, Lacey said
Lacey explained how vape pens were the earliest style of vaping, because they came in pocket sizes. Smaller devices, like vape pods, can handle salt nicotine, which is a powdery and pure substance, giving a better head rush and cigarette sensation, he said.
He said salt nicotine sells best. Juul pods are a disposable type of vape pod that tend to be more expensive as opposed to purchasing a reusable vape pod device, Lacey said. They do not sell juice without nicotine at the shop because it doesn’t sell enough.
Mods, a larger, heavy-duty vaping option, are a bulkier product, often including touch screens for user modification, that create higher temperatures and produce more power, allowing for users to ingest more at once, he said.
In the long run, vaping as opposed to smoking cigarettes saves the user money, Lacey said.
A mild smoking habit, averaging two to three packs of cigarettes a week, costs a user about $21 a week. That’s over $80 a month, he said. While vaping may cost about an $80 startup in the first month, overtime the juice and pods are significantly cheaper than buying cigarette packs, he said.
THC vapes aren’t legal in Indiana. Any CBD oil sold in the state must have no more than 0.3 percent THC, Lacey said, as per federal regulation. CBD products often have barcodes under the product for anyone to look up the lab results.
For safety, he also advised to keep vape devices away from water as they have batteries which may short-circuit or explode.
Most of the vape products sold at The Smoke Shop contain glycerin, which absorbs in the lungs, Lacey said.
Within the state of Indiana, some restrictions include only being able to sell vaping products to customers 18 years and older, requiring business owners to have a special permit to sell vape products and the prohibition of “self service sales” for e-liquids, according to Public Health and Law Center at Mitchell Hamline Law School.
“It's surprising how we allowed so much to happen across the nation, like people were selling it on the street and in the store.The big, clear danger would be [vaping because in] smoking, you still traditionally [have] some time to quit, and rehab and get back to normal life,” said Jagdish Khubchandani, professor of health science at Ball State. “And vaping, it seems like a person could die within one day, which doesn't happen with tobacco smoke, like you just don't die in one day.”
Khubchandani said those who vape in high school have a tendency to go into college continuing their addiction, rather than pursue a healthier lifestyle.
“Clearly, you will continue with those behaviors, especially with alcohol [and] drugs. You see high school students [and] college students, it's almost like a pathway to increased prevalence,” he said. “But it's unfortunate, you know, because some are clearly struggling with addiction, and they think [vaping] is the best way to get off addiction and it’s not.”
Banning the flavored e-cigarette juices would help “slow down” the epidemic, Khubchandani said, but not fully solve the issue.
“So, it has to be some chemical, which could be the flavor. And still, I think they need to continue investigation,” he said. “I don't know what was happening. They just allow people to sell whatever, and it was too lax. And within 10 years, look at how popular it has become worldwide.”
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