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Vaping: Effective quitting technique or harmful trend?

Nick Bragg

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A Chico State student blows O’s with a vape pen. Photo credit: Trevor Ryan

A thick white cloud of vapor rolled off of Timothy Toavs lips as he discussed the hobby that helped him quit smoking.

Studies have shown that electronic cigarettes, also known as advanced personal vaporizers, can help individuals reduce the urge to smoke. However, the coping mechanism may be turning into a popular hobby rather than an effective way to kick a nicotine addiction.

The vape industry has introduced multiple terms such as vaping, the act of puffing on a vaporizer, and e-juice, the liquid you put in your vaporizer to inhale.

Toavs, owner of Chico Vapor Lounge, began using an advanced personal vaporizer as a way to quit smoking cigarettes.

“I started vaping in Alaska when I was in the military to quit smoking two packs a day,” Toavs said.

At the Chico Vapor Lounge, a basic starter kit costs about $50 to $70. Packs of cigarettes in the U.S cost an average of $6.36 a pack, which can add up every month for smokers. The high price of the starter kits doesn’t seem that bad compared to pack prices, Toavs said.

The shift to vaping, in some cases, can highlight one of the less obvious differences between cigarettes and vapor smoking — personalization.

Advanced personal vaporizers can be adjusted and reconfigured with kanthal wire that enable the user to produce a personalized vaping experience. According to Toavs, different types of vaporizers like cloud chasers wrap coils in the pen that help to produce the most vapor smoke.

Toavs went from quitting cigarettes to becoming a hobbyist after he discovered the amount of personalization that vaping provides, he said.

“Its got a lot of attraction to hobbyists because you work with your hands the whole time when wrapping coils or wicking cotton,” Toavs said.

While it may be a hobby for many individuals, large clouds of smoke may scare others and the vapors themselves can cause harmful health effects. When walking around campus, some students see others blowing these huge clouds of vapor and find it intimidating.

Sean McFadden, senior communications major, thinks that “vapers” should be restricted to the same areas as smokers, he said.

“I think that vape users should have to be designated to smoking-only areas,” McFadden said. “That way it doesn’t affect people that are actually offended by the idea of them vaping and blowing these huge clouds of vapor smoke.”

In addition to the intimidation aspect, using vaporizers is not as safe as it may seem.

There is an unregulated aspect to vaping that can be worrisome, Toavs said. E-juice contains two main ingredients, propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin, along with flavorings and nicotine.

While these two ingredients are considered nontoxic organic compounds, some minor health risks include:

  • Propylene glycol is a humectant, which can cause dryness of the mouth and throat. Users have also reported allergic reactions that can be anywhere from a tingling sensation to serious irritations in different parts of the body.
  • Vegetable glycerin has reportedly caused a buildup of phlegm in the throat.

The FDA does not regulate the e-juices that are sold in stores and online, which means that China and backyard brewers can mass produce e-juice in the cheapest way possible by cutting all corners necessary to make the biggest profit margin, Toavs said.

“Most all juice that comes from China has been tested to contain formaldehyde and arsenic because they have even less strict rules in China,” he said.

Some companies are funneling millions of dollars into get vaping banned. These include the tobacco companies, the heart and lung association, and big pharmacies, Toavs said.

“They all want this banned because we are no longer having such a high risk of heart attack, no longer getting emphysema and we are not using the patches, gums or lozenges from the pharmacy companies,” he said.

While the activity has health risks and controversy surrounding it, vaping can still be used as an effective way to transfer the addiction from nicotine to a less harmful smoking device, Toavs said.

“I’m not gonna sit here and say that vaping is 100 percent safe,” he said. “Because honestly, anything you put in your body that’s not meant to be there is not safe. But I would say that it is 100 times safer than a cigarette.”

Nick Bragg can be reached at [email protected] or @Nick981 on Twitter.

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Vaping: Effective quitting technique or harmful trend?