Over the last few years, vaping has become popular among young people. In Kenya, the ban on public smoking of shisha has perhaps led to an increase in vaping in urban areas. Vaping is the act of inhaling vapour produced in an e-cigarette/electronic cigarette/e-cig or a vaping device.
Vaping devices come in different shapes in forms. Currently, the vaping devices market has e-cigarettes shaped like cigars, pipes, traditional cigarettes, pens, and even USB flash disks.
How does vaping work?
An e-cigarette typically has a cartridge or reservoir which contains a liquid, an atomizer which is the heating element, a battery which is the power source, and a mouthpiece. The juice inside the reservoir contains nicotine, flavouring, and other chemicals. Once the smoker puffs, he activates the device and vaporizes the liquid.
Effects of vaping
1. It affects brain development.
The use of e-cigarettes is especially harmful to young people below the age of 25 because the brain fully develops at the age of 25. The vaping devices contain nicotine which negatively affects the parts of the brain controlling attention, moods, and impulses.
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2. Vaping affects the formation of synapses.
As we learn new skills or form new memories, the brain builds synapses or connections between brain cells. It is easier for young people to learn new things than adults because their brains form these connections more quickly and efficiently than older people. Constant intake of nicotine causes harm and changes the way in which the brain develops these connections.
Additionally, nicotine can cause damage to stem cells hindering the brain’s ability to repair damages resulting in aging and susceptibility to neurodegenerative diseases.
3. Vaping increases the chances of addiction.
Similar to other addictions, inhaling nicotine leads to the release of dopamine, the hormone associated with the rewarding system. The brain associates smoking nicotine with ‘getting rewarded’ with the good feeling from dopamine. So, this motivates the vape user to inhale nicotine repeatedly to get this feeling.
Unlike other drugs, nicotine is highly addictive because a smoker inhales the drug repeatedly. Say, for example, in a single vaping session, the user puffs about 20 times. This smoker has “taught” the brain that the repeated use of nicotine in the e-cig leads to that “good feeling,” so it encourages the user to continue puffing, resulting in addiction. In several cases vaping leads to addiction to other drugs as well.
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4. Vaping effects on lungs
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one of the significant issues with vaping products is the presence of vitamin E acetate. In many of the e-cigarettes, manufacturers use vitamin E acetate in the flavours so that the smoke produced is thicker and the cartridge can last longer. However, when inhaled, vitamin E acetate clings to the lung tissues causing illnesses referred to as e-cigarette or vaping use associated with lung injury (EVALI).
Additionally, the vape oils in vaping devices contain various chemicals that cause harm to the lungs. Such chemicals include diacetyl, lead, nickel, among others. The chemicals found in vaping products, in addition to nicotine, are associated with lung cancer.
5. Vaping increases the risks of heart diseases.
Studies have shown that vaping nicotine significantly increases the chances of heart attack, blood clots, circulatory issues, and coronary artery disease. Vapers also have a higher chance of suffering strokes.
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6. Gum disease
Vaping can also affect gums. Nicotine is known to reduce blood flow to teeth and gums. As a result, the gum tissue is deprived of oxygen and nutrients necessary for good oral health. The gum tissue could recede, or decay and the smoker are at high risk of developing cavities.
E-cigarettes can be very addictive because they come in various flavours, making them more appealing than traditional tobacco products. There is a lot of documented research showing that nicotine is harmful to the body. Although studies on all the long-term and short-term effects of vaping are still ongoing, the research so far indicates that vaping is detrimental to your health. Young people should be discouraged from using electronic cigarettes even before they start using them.
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