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STUDENT ALERT: e-cigarettes & juuling are dangerous

“How can that possibly be? “Before juuling and, now, not being able to stop, I’d heard that vaping was 95% safer than smoking?”

February 9, 2019   John R. Polito

FDA photo of a teenage girl holding a Juul while vaping in a school bathroomNicotine addiction is as real and permanent as alcoholism. Although a nicotine addict can arrest their dependence, there is no known cure. The recovered addict remains just one puff away from relapse for the rest of their life.

Although apologizing now to thousands upon thousands of Juul addicted children and teenagers doesn’t help, it needs saying.

We’re sorry that you weren’t adequately warned sooner. Unfortunately, for students not yet hooked, with each passing day the risks taking direct aim at them grow more alarming.

We regret that the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) permitted Juul to market 5% nicotine salt solutions before appreciating their addictiveness, and before imposing reasonable youth dependency prevention controls over marketing and sales.

And to youth now getting hooked, we apologize for the FDA and the CDC since standing idly by as Juul's instant vaping market domination triggered a “nicotine arms race,” with “more than 70 e-liquid brands now selling high-nicotine” products having greater than 5 percent nicotine concentrations.

Widespread media reports of students juuling during school, clearly, the vaping messages most teens continue receiving are the wrong ones.

Although normal to be curious and normal to want to be liked and fit it, it may only take flooding your brain with inhaled nicotine once before you lose the freedom and autonomy to not do so again, and again and again and again, all day long, for the rest of your life.

Activating brain dopamine pathways, the adolescent brain quickly begins seeing nicotine as if food. Imagine feeling hunger pains for more nicotine five, ten, fifteen or eventually even twenty or more times daily.

And we’re sorry that the message that vaping is 95% safer than smoking is being wrongly interpreted by children and teens as vaping being safe.

You’re right, it seems to be everywhere. For example, a Google search of ‘e-cigarettes "95 percent safer" smoking OR cigarettes’ returns 5,440 search results.

Math quiz: If cigarettes contribute to killing 439,000 U.S. smokers a year, and e-cigarettes were in fact 95 percent safer, assuming equal numbers of smokers and e-cigarette users, how many deaths would vaping e-cigarettes contribute to causing per year?

Ask yourself, should 21,950 vaping deaths be considered anything other than dangerous? But what if the actual number killed turns out to be much higher? What if the 95 percent figure is horribly wrong?

What students need hearing prior to that first mouth full of nicotine is that the panel that made the vaping is 95 percent safer than smoking claim openly admitted in their 2013 paper announcing it, that “a limitation of this study is the lack of hard evidence for the harms of most products on most of the criteria.”

The paper’s title shouted even louder that they were “estimating” or guessing. And how well did they guess? Take this example. Which is the greater harm, being and living life addicted, or your addiction’s cost to society?

Why ask? Because a massive part of the panel’s 95 percent safer guess involved valuing and weighing the relative importance of known tobacco harms.

No panel member themselves an addicted teen sitting in a classroom and unable to concentrate because their brain is engaged in fighting off urges for more, the panel valued the cigarette’s economic costs as being 5 times more harmful than living each and every day, from dawn to dusk, as an actively feeding drug addict.

In their defense, at least in part, how, in 2013 could the panel possibly have foreseen the 2017 consequences of students juuling nicotine salts? And if they couldn’t see nicotine salts coming, how many other vaping risks have they totally missed or wrongly valued?

For example, while science knows the consequences of eating and digesting most e-cigarette flavorings and additives, it is clueless as to the long-term risks associated with inhaling them into your lungs, multiple times daily, day after day, year after year.

GIF showing a smoker inhaling nicotine after experierncing a cravePrior to that first puff ever ask yourself this question. Before I risk making my new #1 priority in life the need to satisfy a never-ending cycle of wanting and urges for more nicotine, every waking hour of every day, when I do end up hooked, what is the likelihood of me becoming a cigarette smoker, where half of adult smokers end up smoking themselves to death?

A February 2019 JAMA study found that among 12 to 15 year-olds who had used e-cigarettes that, within 2 years, they were 3 times more likely to become smokers.

Whether nicotine enters a student’s bloodstream by being vaped or smoked, as stated by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “nicotine is highly addictive and can harm adolescent brain development, which continues into the early to mid-20s. Using nicotine in adolescence can harm the parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood, and impulse control.”

“Each time a new memory is created or a new skill is learned, stronger connections – or synapses – are built between brain cells. Young people’s brains build synapses faster than adult brains. Nicotine changes the way these synapses are formed.”

Which is more important, getting closer to or being liked by someone who vapes nicotine because they must, because a rising tide of anxieties begin to hurt when they don’t, or your ability to focus and learn while remaining calm and content, without being transformed into a major risk taker?

While normal to be curious about dangerous things, if we play with fire we should expect to get burned. Why fall, fail and follow into neuro-chemical slavery when you can stand, shine and lead?

For now, the choice is hopefully still yours. Choose wisely.

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Page created 02/02/19 and last revised 02/02/19 by John R. Polito