Electronic cigarettes, commonly known as e-cigarettes, hookahs or vape pens, continue to raise safety concerns in the United States as they become ever more popular. According to the United States Fire Administration, over 190 e-cigarette explosions occurred between 2009 and 2019. In May 2018, the first fatal e-cigarette explosion took place in St. Petersburg, taking the life of a 35-year-old man.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that in the U.S., the youth are more likely than adults to use e-cigarettes. As they become an extremely sought-after item among middle school, high school and college students, several students and health officials voiced their concerns about the dangers of vaping.
TCC student Asahn Ameli said many of his peers view e-cigarettes as a healthier smoking alternative, and they also see it as a “social icebreaker.”
“Without having a vape in hand, it’s like some people just don’t know how to start a conversation,” he said. “When they have something like that in their hands, then they’re like ‘Yo. What’s up?’”
Cheyenne Reynolds, a music education major at TCC, agrees that many young people view e-cigarettes as harmless and do it for “cool points,” but she is also disturbed by the recent news of pens exploding due to various defects. “You see a lot of young people hospitalized on the news because a vape pen exploded in their face from it being overheated. That’s pretty scary to know, especially when I see many students walk around school with them. They’re like ticking time bombs.”
Popular vape pen brands include JUUL, Eleaf, Space Jam and VaporFi.
Although defective batteries or overheated vape pens aren’t the only issues with the smoking devices. Even though e-cigarettes contain fewer toxic chemicals than regular cigarettes, e-cigarettes are not harmless. Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine — an addictive drug that is found in regular cigarettes and other tobacco products.
Crystall Robinson, health educator and Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) coordinator at the Leon County Health Department, is extremely worried about the various health problems young e-cigarette users expose themselves to over time. “We do see dual use as a problem, which is the use of traditional cigarettes and e-cigarettes,” she said, “and that comes with the heart disease and the lung functioning concerns.”
Robinson said that there is also an alarming rate of e-cigarette users ages 11 to 17 in the state of Florida. “And then with youth, their brains are still developing. You’ve got adolescents who are still growing and coming into their own, and they are more susceptible to nicotine addiction.”
The fumes from e-cigarettes can also be inhaled by bystander through secondhand aerosol. According to nosmoke.org, secondhand aerosol also contains a harmful amount of nicotine and other dangerous chemicals.