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Students who vape face financial, medical problems

E-cigarettes have been the most commonly used tobacco product among youth since 2014, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.In 2021, about one in 35 middle school students (2.8 percent) and one in nine high school students (11.3 percent) reported they had used electronic cigarettes in the past 30 days.

E-cigarettes are devices that produce an aerosol by heating a liquid that usually contains flavored nicotine and other chemicals, according to the CDC.

E-cigarettes are also known as vapes or vape pens and can be used for marijuana as well.

The CDC said scientists are still learning about the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes, but it is known that e-cigarettes contain nicotine and other substances that harm the body. Moreover, it has been linked to harming adolescent brain development continuing into a persons early to mid-20s.

Pamela Gutiérrez-Paez is studying biology on the pre-med track in her first year at Tech.

Gutiérrez-Paez said she was introduced to vaping as a sophomore in high school by one of her friends, and since then, she said, she gradually started hitting vapes when she was with her friends until she began purchasing them herself.

Gutiérrez-Paez said it became a habit. She got so used to having and constantly holding it to where she always feels like she needs to have it.

“Whenever I don’t have it, I’m thinking about it, and I’m like ‘okay I can just go get another one,’ and I’ll go get it,” Gutiérrez-Paez, the Houston native, said. “It feels like I’m missing something. I don’t know how to explain it, like you’re missing something you have on a daily basis all the time. And when I don’t have it it’s like, ‘what do I do now?’”

There are two common types of vapes: disposables and refillables. Refillable vapes contain a rechargeable battery and refillable pod that holds the liquid.

This allows users to reuse their device over and over, only having to replace the liquid and the pod.

Refillable vapes cost about $25-$35 at local vape shops and go up from there, with nicotine juices run about $13 and the pods are about $5-$10.

Disposables are vapes that are pre-filled with e-liquid, allowing for a specific number of puffs per device.

These are made to be used and discarded once the battery dies or the e-juice is used. These devices cost about $12-$25 at most local vape shops. 

“(Disposables) are just easier to buy, use and throw away,” Gutiérrez-Paez said. “It’s definitely more cost efficient to refill, but for me it’s just too much work. That way if I ever wanna just stop for a while as soon as it dies, I just don’t have anything to automatically hit until I go to the smoke shop and get more.”

Gutiérrez-Paez regularly works out and she said she can feel a difference when she has not been vaping for a while and when she has.

“It definitely affects your lungs a lot and the rest of your body,” Gutiérrez-Paez said. “I notice my performance and how out of breath I am after the bare minimum. So I know it’s bad but part of me wants to tell myself that nothing has happened yet, so I should be fine.”

Gutiérrez-Paez said there is a little buzz now and then which is another reason she vapes. She said it reminds her of a little head high when she would get a buzz.

“After hitting it for a while, there’s no buzz, just the flavor and the fact that you’re addicted to constantly having to hit it,” Gutiérrez-Paez said. “When I would take breaks for a few days and then I would hit it, then I would be like ‘oh it’s back,’ and so I’d keep hitting it, and then it’s gone again, and it’s died down, so it’s like a cycle.”

Public relations and strategic communication management student, Madeline Edwards, has never tried vaping and is against doing so.

“To be perfectly frank, I think it’s really stupid because I don’t want to get addicted to something that is going to affect my health and my wallet if that makes sense, so I’ve just never tried it,” Edwards said.

Edwards said she has a ton of friends who can’t live without their vape and say they are going to quit but never do. Edwards said something that doesn’t seem like a big deal, is such a big deal in the grand scheme of things.

“They grow so dependent on it that they literally cannot function without it which is also why I’m kinda scared to be involved in something like that because I’ve seen the impacts of how truly addictive it can be,” Edwards said.

Jennifer Jordan is a doctorate level nurse and got her degree from the graduate nursing program at Tech. She now lives in the Austin area, studying to become a family nurse practitioner.

“I have smoked ten cigarettes and five cigars in my life,” Jordan said. “I know from personal experience it makes you feel good for a limited time. It gives you that euphoric feeling, it gives you energy, it’s warm, it goes straight to the brain, it gives you that ‘wake-up.’”

Jordan said when someone comes down from that high, they crave that feeling again.

“We have learned that vaping — the chemicals — can alter the chemistry of your lungs and can cause severe damage,” Jordan said. “Nicotine hits the nicotine receptors in your body and alters the lining of your respiratory tract, it still destroys the cells in your lungs that take years to grow back if you stop vaping.”

Jordan said that even those that do not vape on a daily basis, multiple times a day, may still face damage to their lungs.

“People who use vaping canisters more often will get more damage, but even if you are around them, and you breathe in that vapor, there’s still a chance you could get damage, maybe less, but still get damage,” Jordan said. “And it could still alter the brain and other parts of the body.”

Jordan said human brains are not fully developed until about 22 or 23 years old depending on the literature. Scientists have learned that things you do in your teens can alter your brain make up, so if you drink alcohol or do drugs your growth is stunted and your brain level, unfortunately, in some regards can stay in that “teen” mindset.

“It damages your epithelial cell lining and your respiratory tract,” Jordan said. “So the cilia that naturally catch the viruses and bacteria and pollen in your respiratory tract are damaged in a way that they can’t prevent that from getting in your lungs.”

Jordan said the epithelial cells are thinned, so things that would normally get trapped and prevented from getting into your lungs and nasal passage, are able to go through. This is why smokers have a higher chance of respiratory disorders like pneumonia or being hospitalized with COVID-19.

“It is so detrimental to your long term health, and I would humbly recommend looking towards alternatives to coping with college stressors such as exercise, healthy eating, talking to a friend or pastor or co-worker or mental health specialist,” Jordan said. “I would just recommend them to look toward reducing their usage and eventually quitting because of the potential harms to their long term health.”

Asher McPherson/Daily Toreador

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