Currently it is more and more common to find vaping shops, or “vape shops”, specialized in the sale of vapers or electronic cigarettes. Chain supermarkets have also added these devices to their commercial inventory. Consequently, it is more and more common to see large clouds of smoke around us.
Vapers, or electronic cigarettes, are battery-powered devices that heat different substances to generate a vapor that can be inhaled, loaded with chemicals such as propylene glycol, glycerin, nicotine, flavorings such as diacetyl, volatile organic compounds, heavy metals, and other substances.
These devices are sold in different presentations that try to attract the attention of their consumers; there are different shapes, colors and even lights. Some have the appearance of a traditional cigarette or common items such as pens, plastic tubes or USB flash drives. To attract even more attention, they are promoted in different flavors such as watermelon, mint, banana, tropical fruits, or even some that appeal to more exotic flavors such as cotton candy, froot loops, churro or milkshake.
With this, vapers are able to distance themselves from the negative connotation that traditional cigarettes have and are more socially accepted. This makes even some people who are not in the habit of vaping tolerate it within their environment.
These “friendly” features are aimed at promoting its use in the entire population, especially in young people. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the presence of these devices has increased worryingly among the adolescent population. Significant increases in consumption are recorded, even among young people in their eighth year of education.
Vapers have been falsely promoted as safer alternatives to traditional smoking and the idea that their consumption is less harmful than that of the common cigarette has been installed. There are even websites that promote it as a treatment to quit smoking.
According to the American Cancer Society, vaping has been linked to serious lung disease, symptoms of which can include cough, dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, tiredness, and fever. Other effects reported by the Pan American Health Organization are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and lung disorders.
Although we are beginning to understand the negative health effects of vaping, these devices have not been on the market long enough to understand all the potential long-term side effects.
No less important than the systemic effects are the new associated risks that the use of vapers has brought with it. Because these devices heat substances to generate vapor and use batteries, explosions have been reported causing serious injury to users. According to a study cited by CNN, between 2015 and 2017, more than 2,000 e-cigarette explosions sent people to emergency rooms.
Risks in the Environment
The vaping industry generates a large amount of waste. Not only do devices end their useful life as waste, but also other vaping-related by-products such as packaging, cases, shells, nicotine liquid containers and lithium batteries. Disposal of vapers is the elimination of three wastes in one: plastic, hazardous waste and electronic waste. They are all harmful to the environment.
Most vaping devices are disposable single-use plastics. This means that the device is in the hands -or in the mouth- of the user for a few days, and then it becomes waste. Being an addictive product, it is almost certain that the user will buy another one and the cycle will repeat itself.
According to a study carried out by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, two vapers are discarded every second in the United Kingdom alone, which is equivalent to approximately 10 tons of lithium, which is a component of their batteries. These batteries have the potential to be recharged; however, by the nature of the design of these devices, they are intended to be disposed of once their original battery charge is depleted.
Lithium is a fundamental element for the manufacture of batteries in the boom in the development of clean energies, but the reserves of this mineral are limited in the world and its extraction is not easy. In the midst of a severe global climate crisis, we are wasting vast amounts of lithium that are destined for the manufacture of unhealthy devices such as vapers.
Despite all the negative implications that revolve around this topic, it is becoming more and more common to find users of vapers. The fact that these products are being sold as “cool” options, with innocuous named flavors, futuristic designs, and as an alternative and “safer” option to the traditional cigarette, is literally a huge smoke curtain.