Electronic cigarettes, more commonly known as vaporizers, are becoming increasingly popular on high school and college campuses throughout the country.
Nathaniel Riggs, an associate professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, aided in a survey focusing on the correlation between the use of electronic cigarettes and the use of other tobacco-related products.
The survey, part of the Health and Happiness study involving about 3,300 ninth-grade students in southern California, questioned them about topics including substance use, mental health and social competence, Riggs said.
“One of the reasons why we’re really interested in adolescents is because the adolescent brain is still continuing to develop in the areas that are really important for addiction,” Riggs said. “Young adults, from 18 to 25 years of age, are still going through a very similar development.”
Vaporizers have been marketed for adolescents with different types of flavoring, such as cotton candy. These different types of electronic cigarettes are not initially seen as harmful because they lack as many carcinogens as combustible cigarettes, cigars or hookah.
“Kids who hadn’t started using tobacco-related products were more likely to start using them after they begin using electronic cigarettes, so the electronic cigarettes appear to be a gateway for more dangerous forms of tobacco use,” Riggs said. “Even though these electronics do not have as many carcinogens, cancer-causing chemicals, as regular tobacco products, they still contain nicotine, which causes the addiction to, in this case, these electronic cigarettes.”
Many students and adolescents are unaware of the amount of nicotine found in electronic cigarettes.
“I started doing research on vaping, and saw that it was just as unregulated as cigarettes,” said Nathan Comai, a freshman studying fish, wildlife and conservation biology, about his use of vaporizers.
As electronic cigarettes gain popularity among adolescents, they also are becoming more available. In certain parts of the country, vaporizers are available for purchase at gas stations and other convenience stores.
The amount of nicotine may not be as significant in electronic cigarettes as it is in other tobacco products, but it still contains enough to create addiction.
“I feel like I would be less likely to quit (smoking cigarettes) if I was vaping, because it’s easier and less bad for you then I would never want to quit,” said Madison Scardino, a freshman studying fish, wildlife and conservation biology.
Some students smoke both electronic and combustible cigarettes.
“I really don’t like smoking cigarettes, and the vape really does help take the edge off, but it never takes place of actual cigarettes,” said Charis Christopher, a junior art major.
Collegian Reporter Savannah Hoag can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org on Twitter @savvie_wavvie.