I started smoking cigarettes when I was in high school. It was my first private addiction. I was at summer camp in Boston and a friend of mine smoked Marlboro Reds. We went across the street to the gas station, and she bought a pack. She offered me one, and I took it. I took it because I wanted to see what it was like, I tried to fit in, and I decided to ingest something that made me feel different. I remember feeling very cool as I stood on the corner of Commonwealth Avenue smoking a Marlboro Red. Instantly I felt prettier, sexier and more alluring. I got an excruciating headache afterward and felt nauseous, and I couldn’t wait to do it again.
Nicotine Is Incredibly Addictive
Nicotine is a prime ingredient in vaping devices. Studies show that nicotine is more addictive than heroin and cocaine and there is a growing body of evidence that nicotine can harm the developing adolescent brain. In 2015, e-cigarettes were the most commonly used tobacco product among students in middle school and high school.
My boyfriend started buying me packs of cigarettes, and after school, I would go in the backyard and smoke just one and toss the butt in the cracks of our porch. My father found a lighter one day in my purse and confronted me. It came out that I was smoking cigarettes. He was profoundly disappointed and concerned. As an ex-smoker, my father warned me about the consequences of smoking cigarettes. I arrogantly told him I wouldn’t become addicted. He said that I wouldn’t have a choice once I passed that threshold. He was right.
Nicotine is among the most addictive substances and in fact, the nicotine in e-liquids quickly absorbs into the bloodstream. As a consequence, nicotine stimulates the release of adrenaline and dopamine. All this affects the paths in the brain responsible for pleasure and reward and leads to nicotine use over and over again.
The Appeal of Vaping is Stronger than Ever
The smell, the taste, the griminess of smoking deterred many of my friends from picking up cigarettes. If vaping were as popular as it is now I am sure everyone would have been vaping nicotine. Almost everyone I know vapes nicotine. When I moved to California, I swapped out smoking cigarettes for vaping. I didn’t vape to cut down on my nicotine intake; I started vaping because it tasted good, smelled good and didn’t have any of the noticeable nasty side effects that cigarettes had. Flavors like Sticky Bun, Lemon Cake, and Unicorn Milk appealed to me much more than the harsh menthol of Marlboro Lights. I didn’t smell like smoke, I didn’t taste like smoke, and I had more energy. Although vape stores cannot legally sell vapes to minors, that doesn’t deter teens from obtaining them.
Research suggests that 30.7% of teens who vape become addicted to other substances within six months.
The most visible indicator that shows vaping is addictive is that fact that vaping withdrawal exists. Vaping leads to various emotional changes, such as:
- Mood Swings
- Irregular heartbeats
- Weight gain
A 2017 survey showed that nearly 1 in 3 high school seniors vaped in 2017. About 13 percent of 8th graders, 24 percent of 10th graders, and almost 28 percent of 12th graders at United States schools reported using a vaping device in the past year. 1 in 10 admitted to vaping nicotine, and 1 in 20 said they were vaping marijuana and other drugs.
I think the most horrifying statistic that I read in researching this topic was that nicotine has proven to affect brain development amongst teens. Parents and teachers are catching on to students vaping in the bathrooms or hallways of high school and middle schools. It is apparent that vaping is an issue this generation is confronting. It is easily accessible, more enticing and universal. The red flag here is that not only is vaping addictive, but it is a gateway to other substances.