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Vaping: Is the Latest Trend Among Teens Safe?

small  8487219770-300x300Have you heard your teenager mention hookah pens? How about vape pens, e-hookahs, hookah sticks, or e-pens? The action of smoking one is called "vaping."

Though they go by different names, they're one in the same. Hookah pens are slick, convenient, portable, colorful, flavorful e-cigarette-type devices becoming increasingly popular among pre-teens and teens. Cigarettes are known to be cancer causing and drugs are illegal, but teens of today are finding new ways to circumvent both the unhealthy and unacceptable with the use of hookah pens.

Why are teens drawn to hookah pens?

Hookah pens are marketed as being nicotine free if desired (unlike cigarettes and e-cigarettes) as well as tobacco and tar free. In other words, they are being marketed as safe. They are sold with different "juices" touted as containing only propylene glycol, glycerin, flavoring, and water; or the same ingredients that are in your salad dressings and shampoos. Flavors are tempting and seductive: cotton candy, mountain dew, sensual vanilla, chocolate candy bar, jungle juice, mocha latte, energy, and bubble gum among others. The pens are cheap, disposable, and don't need to be cleaned or maintained. Youtube videos show people doing tricks with the vapor created by heating, inhaling, then exhaling the pen juice in the vaporized form. Companies that produce hookah pens have come up with savvy slogans and terms such as "live loud, make clouds," "make your own smoke art," "fresh, outdoor clouds," "sun filled clouds," "airbending," and "vape towers."

Are hookah pens safe?

The perception is that they are much safer than cigarettes and even risk-free due to the seemingly innocuous ingredients in them. They are being aggressively marketed this way as well. However, questions abound and they are not even recommended for smoking cessation purposes. Jon Ebbert, MD, Assistant Director of the Mayo Clinic's Nicotine Dependence Center, told Science Daily, "...vaping creates a vapor cloud that resembles cigarette smoke. As of right now, there is no long-term safety data showing the impact of repeated inhalation of propylene glycol or glycerin on lung tissue."

Propylene glycol and glycerin, while common and shown to be safe in foods and beauty supplies, have not been extensively studied in humans in their inhaled forms. Hookah pens haven't been around long enough to be scientifically studied and they are essentially unregulated. Most pens are manufactured in China and there is limited quality control. Recourse (such as suing a company) would likely be limited if they are found to put your health at risk. Companies cite "a study" on their websites that showed that hookah pens were safe but the study has no citation, likely because the study was not published and/or publishable.

Is vaping addictive?

Nicotine-free hookah pens aren't likely to be addictive, but may be habit forming. According to a New York Times article published this past March, "...health officials worry that...[it]will lead to increased nicotine use and, possibly, prompt some people to graduate to cigarettes". Is the hookah pen industry eluding lawmakers by promoting their nicotine-free hookah pens to teenagers with the thought that young "vapers" will eventually graduate to the more addictive nicotine-laced hookah pen juice? There is also a legitimate concern that refillable vape pens can be used to surreptitiously smoke more dangerous products with no incriminating odor.

Can you purchase them legally if you're below 18 years of age? How are they purchased?

That depends on where you try to purchase them. Hookah pens are often labeled as nicotine-free and tobacco-free and they are relatively new to the marketplace. It is unclear whether they are safe or dangerous. Therefore, many states and counties do not yet have laws around the sale and use of these devices. It is unclear whether your child would be sold a hookah pen at a store. One thing is clear, however. The hookah pen business on the internet is booming and it is very easy to purchase them online with discounts offered for bulk purchases. They're cheap- between $6-10 for the disposable pens and $20 and up for the non-disposable ones. Of note, one of the larger hookah pen manufacturers and distributors just received financing to the tune of $4.7 million in order to expand its presence across the United States.

With funding like this and investors and celebrities picking up on the trend, expect that hookah pen use will only be increasing in our schools and in our area.

Have you heard of hookah pen use in Scarsdale? Share your thoughts below!

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#25 pissed off mom 2017-06-24 13:32
So why do it if it is not addictive and has no effect on you? Why is it illegal for kids under 18 to do it?
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#24 Anonymous 2016-03-22 19:36
I think there is a little confusion here. There is no long-term effect data available because the products are relatively new. Therefore, long-term effects are unknown. Just because you have no effects from it now doesn't mean you won't later in life.

In addition, the flavors are typically derived from chemicals. Inhaling chemicals is never any good. Even if the flavoring is natural, the composition may change from the heating process. Besides, arsenic is natural, but you wouldn't want to take it.
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#23 ByGolly 2016-02-07 14:03
I recently spoke with Dr. Richard Hurt, who used to be the Director of the Nicotine Dependence Center at the Mayo Clinic. He said the hookahs were NOT safe; he said that many did NOT have nicotine, but that many had heavy metals in them, which were deposited directly in the lungs. These metals are carcinogenic; he said smoking a hookah was up to 25 times worse than smoking a cigarette. He also said that many of the hookahs were made in China and there were no regulatory restrictions on their manufacture, so who knows what is in there? It can take YEARS for the side effects/problem s associated with a habit to show up, so why risk it?
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#22 Bob 2015-10-31 20:12
To anyone who reads this article now: know that the science cannot back up any negative effects. The fact is that a vaporizer is simply that, a vaporizer. It vaporizes substances to be inhaled, which can range from water with trace flavorings, to alcohol or caffeine. What you perceive to be a "gateway drug" is irrelevant, mine was caffeine for Christ's sake. The negative stigma comes from smoking, none of smoking's negative effects come from vaporizing water. Even nicotine itself, as a drug, is not much different from caffeine except in that it's more addictive. It's ridiculous to question the health effects of water vapour, and all tests on nicotine taken in this way have shown that, aside from addiction, the drug itself is nearly harmless and not a carcinogen.
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#21 VapeQueen 2015-10-29 17:28
Im 19 and i love my rechargeable vapor that i have. (Dont know about these 15 year olds) I use mine all the time and no it does absolutely nothing to me, i use 0 nicotine and ive been vaping for about a year. I honestly dont understand what harm can come from breathing the vapor, its like using the humidifier for when you are congested and have a stuffy nose.
:D :lol: :-* so i see no harm done
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#20 Kylie 2015-08-04 21:43
I'm 15 and I just ordered 10 new dipsosable e hookahs. There's no nicotine and they taste amazing.They're also pretty fun and make for great party tricks. I see no harm, and no, they aren't going to kill you immediately. If you don't want any long-term effects, then don't do it very often... or at all. It doesn't matter. Do what you want with your own body.
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#19 Sonya 2015-07-06 00:37
It takes approximately 20 years of monitoring an activity such as water pipes, vapors, etc... Where will you be in 20 years? Since human thoughts on important issues seem to change every 5 years or so, you may feel differently about these activities when you are deep into trying to have a healthy family life or trying to recover from repercussions of past activities. Just because it isn't effecting you now doesn't mean it won't down the road. Is the risk worth it? Aren't you worth it?
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#18 kaylee 2015-06-09 11:34
:sigh: I'm 15. About two months ago I smoked a hookah pen. And now I'm freaking out with every little pain in my body. It was a rechargeable hookah, and I've read so many articles that it isn't harmful due to the nicotine free thing. And it calms me down but with further more research I'm freaking out more. I smoked it because of family problems so. I was stupid at the time to do so. Can someone tell me that these things aren't harmful. So I can at least calm down?!
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#17 Matty 2015-06-09 10:50
With all the polution we breath daily why would anyone with a brain use a vape pen?
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#16 Aaron 2015-06-05 20:43
i haw owned one for 4 years and I've done other "drugs" and hookah was the only "drug" that's hasent affected me
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