By: Diana Bello Aristizábal
DORAL, FL – In recent years, electronic cigarettes have taken such popularity in the market that, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), there are currently more than 460 brands available. Despite this, different organizations and professionals are already talking about its harmful effects, especially in adolescents.
According to NIDA, ‘vaping,’ as people usually refers to the action of inhaling and exhaling the smoke that comes out of the vaporizer, element in which the liquid intended to be smoked is heated, is the most common form of tobacco use among young people, in the U.S.
In fact, according to healthychildren.org, a website powered by the American Academy of Pediatrics, in 2018 more than 20 percent of high school students reported using electronic cigarettes in the past 30 days.
This is due to its attractive advertising, the variety of flavors available that can be mixed with nicotine, the ease to get them, and to the belief that they are safer than the paper ones. Regarding this, the investigations made by NIDA suggest otherwise.
According to the organization, when someone uses an electronic cigarette, the nicotine contained in the liquid is rapidly absorbed by the bloodstream, which causes adrenaline to be released, stimulation of the central nervous system and, consequently, an increase in the blood pressure, the breathing pattern and in the heart rate. All of this helps to create addiction and can harm the lungs.
The findings of this organization match with the investigations carried out by the Doral Police Department that has recently seen an increase in the use of electronic cigarettes among young people within the city.
The gateway to other substances
Rey Valdes, Public Information Officer of the Doral Police, began to notice an increase in the use of electronic cigarettes among young people after seeing many of them ‘vaping’ in the streets more and more often.
“There are children of 15 and 16 years old using these devices even though they can not be sold to children under 18 years of age, as it happens with traditional cigarettes,” warns Rey Valdes.
The problem is that they can take different shapes depending on the manufacturer’s choice, such as a pen or a box, which makes them go unnoticed for many adults because at first glance they look like a regular accessory that can even be hanged on the neck.
For this reason, the officer asks parents to be more aware of what their children are doing. “It is harmful to underage people because it has long-term effects contrary to popular belief,” says Valdes.
This stance is supported by NIDA that warns on its website about brain risks in adolescents. “Young people who consume nicotine products in any form, including electronic cigarettes, are especially exposed to long-lasting damaging effects,” it is read in a statement of January 2018.
According to the organization, its continued use can cause damage to the development of brain circuits that control attention and learning. Also, its consumption is associated with the appearance of emotional disorders, and with the fact that other drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamine, are more pleasant for the developing adolescent brain.
It is precisely this last issue that worries the Doral Police Department, since between March 2018 and the present there have been 23 arrests, one of them to an underage person, for the use of liquid marijuana in electronic cigarettes.
One of the dangers of this is that when consumed in this form has a higher concentration of THC, the main psychoactive ingredient of cannabis because is in its purest form, which is obtained after cooking the plant flower. What is left of this process, an oily liquid, is put inside the vaporizer and then inhaled by a nozzle.
It should be noted that this is not synthetic marijuana, but a liquid that can be mixed with pineapple, coconut, chocolate, and other flavorings, which allows its smell to be hidden. This fact has caused many people to prefer it despite the health risks, and legal implications.
About this, Officer Valdes says that although 23 people have been found within the city, a part of them are not residents of Doral, but rather visitors who were passing by attracted by the city’s nightlife. While doing so, they were arrested by the police for other reasons.
“Some are pulled over because they have a suspended license or are driving under the influence of alcohol, and in those moments they get caught with bottles of liquid marijuana in their vehicles. However, this does not indicate that we are facing a crisis,” Valdes explains.
Nor is it an indication that there is high consumption of liquid marijuana in young people because there has only been one isolated case, currently under investigation, of which it can just be said that occurred in a school, and it was possible to trace thanks to the support of the school community.
“We are doing our best effort to identify where this problem comes from,” adds Valdes, who says that the responsibility of working towards reducing the number of incidents in underage people also lies in parents.
“We must develop trust with our children but, at the same time, verify the information they give us about what they do and with whom,” says officer Valdes.
In addition to this, there has also been reported burn injuries associated with the use of electronic cigarettes caused by their battery. This was confirmed by the Medical Center of Washington University in a 2016 report published by The New England Journal of Medicine.
According to this organization, between October 2015 and June 2016, 15 patients with injuries caused by electronic cigarettes were treated due to the lithium-ion battery component.
For all of the above, the best prevention measure against them is not to encourage or allow the use of electronic cigarettes in the community, especially in adolescents, who are not only legally restricted but are also exposed to higher risks.