#parents | #teensvaping | ‘You only get one body;’ OSF speakers warn teenagers of vaping dangers

Two guest speakers from OSF Health, Ahlyssa Pinter and Susan Walsh, made it clear to Woodland School students Friday the jury is out on vaping: it’s just as bad for people as smoking cigarettes.

Pinter said Juuls and vapes still contain carcinogens, as well as more nicotine than is found in a cigarette. 

“E-cigarettes deliver nicotine just like cigarettes but in a juice form that becomes vapor,” Pinter said. “Then it gets marketed as cool or fashionable and even short uses lead to nicotine addiction.”

Walsh and Pinter point out, using various news reports from across the country, that increased use of vapes among teenagers has been linked to cases of popcorn lung, a condition that damages the smallest airways, leading to cough and shortness of breath. In some cases, vapes with faulty lithium batteries have exploded, causing burns.

“You only get one body and vaping is not safer than cigarettes,” Walsh said. “We don’t see previously healthy 17-year-olds get that sick,” she said in reference to a case in Texas where 17-year-old who had been vaping since seventh grade came down with popcorn lung. 

Pinter said a Juul delivers 59 milligrams of nicotine per millimeter; the average cigarette provides 10 milligrams of nicotine per cigarette. One Juul cartridge is the equivalent of smoking 20 cigarettes.

“If you stop right now, your body can still heal itself over time,” Pinter said. “But stopping isn’t easy and it may be best to talk to an adult about patches or another option to help you quit.”

Walsh said nicotine patches come in 7 milligrams, 14 milligrams, or 21 milligrams of nicotine, meaning they won’t provide the amount someone who vapes regularly is used to.

Walsh and Pinter wrapped up the presentation by pointing out some of the chemicals used to create the juice used to vape: benzene, which is used in pesticides and gasoline; diethylene glycol, which is used in antifreeze; isoprene, which is used to make natural rubber; formaldehyde, a chemical used for preserving dead bodies; toluene, a poisonous industrial solvent found in gasoline; and acetaldehyde, or paint thinner. 

Students were asked to point out some of the benefits of avoiding nicotine products, and many pointed out how expensive cigarettes and vapes are. 

Another student said anyone younger than 21 caught with a vape will have to go in front of a judge.

“Vaping isn’t safer,” Pinter said. “It isn’t healthier. It’s not better for you. (Vaping and cigarettes) are both horrible for you and they aren’t worth it.”

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