Let’s Talk About The Growing Vape Craze Among Youths
SEANN YE AW explores the reasons behind the recent trend of youths vaping illegally, the possible health risks and what youths can do to stay away from this.
Seann Ye Aw
Hype Issue #55
August 19, 2022
E-cigarettes, better known as vapes, are illegal here in Singapore. However, that has not deterred Singaporeans from buying and consuming them. What’s more concerning is that underage youths in Singapore have been starting to pick up this risky habit as well.
According to a Ministry of Health news highlight, “in 2021, there were a total of 4,697 offenders caught for purchase, use or possession of vaporisers, of which about one-third were under-18.”
Henry (not his real name), an 18-year-old student who vapes, shares: “When I was growing up, I got exposed to vaping. It’s not smelly (as compared to cigarettes), it’s convenient [and you can] do it anywhere.”
Henry says that he feels that about 80 per cent of youths his age vape, adding that “it has become a very common sight”.
Why do youths choose to vape?
One reason for this is that e-cigarette brands have found a way to appeal to young people. From the sleek, attractive and colourful devices and packaging, to the unique flavours such as mint, coke and mango, there is no doubt that many youths are easily enticed.
Many e-cigarettes devices are often sleek, minimalistic and stylish which mainly appeals to youths. Photo taken from Pexels.
According to a Missouri State Medical Association study in 2020, “flavour is one of the most important factors adolescents consider in trying e-cigarettes.”
Aside from the allure of vaping, youths might also be drawn to the habit of vaping to combat stress or as a way to ‘fit in’.
“There are a lot of kids these days who tend to vape for the look of being cool,” says Henry.
According to a Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine study in 2021, “Stress relief and friends vaping (or peer influence) were the most popular reasons for vaping.”
“There will be times where there will be toilet sessions (in school), so you go to the toilet and they have their devices there,” says Henry. “They would offer you and they would be like ‘Just try it man. It’s just one puff, [it won’t] kill you.’”
Additionally, when stress from school and studies continue to pile up, many students have found vaping to be their coping mechanism.
Stress and anxiety, which youths often encounter, are some of the reasons that youths turn to vaping. Photo taken from Pexels.
“Vaping and smoking give you a form of stress relief to make you feel less nervous and more comfortable,” says Henry. “For me, when I vape, I feel a moment of like, zen. But yes, stress is a point to take [into consideration as to] why youths tend to vape.”
What are the health risks of vaping?
Many youths tend to think that vaping is a safer alternative to smoking. However, several studies have shown that while vaping may be safer than smoking, it’s still not safe.
Dr May Myat Myat Aye, a general practitioner at Bukit Batok polyclinic says: “In my opinion, this [the notion that vaping is a safer alternative to smoking] is not true since vaping may harm our body as well.”
Furthermore, according to an article by Mount Elizabeth hospital, “those who use e-cigarettes are four times more likely to start smoking cigarettes than those who have never tried them.”
Studies have also shown that one can get addicted to vaping as it contains nicotine, a highly addictive chemical compound also present in cigarettes.
“Nicotine is a very addictive substance and addiction is quite serious,” says Dr Aye. “Nicotine has multiple side effects on our body system, such as dizziness, headache, high blood pressure, tachycardia, heart attack, shortness of breath, dry mouth, diarrhoea, heartburn, peptic ulcers, et cetera.”
Many of the harmful chemicals found in e-cigarettes are said to cause irreversible lung damage, lung disease and in some cases, death. Photo taken from Pexels.
There are also many other harmful chemicals present in e-cigarettes. An example would be benzene, a chemical found in car exhausts. Heavy metals such as nickel, tin and lead are present in e-cigarettes as well. These heavy metals are toxic and can affect your lungs, brain, liver and kidney.
Studies have also found that vaping can affect brain development in people under the age of 25.
According to a Mount Elizabeth article, “Nicotine can impair adolescent brain development, causing attention deficit, memory problems, psychiatric disorders and cognitive impairment.”
Studies have found that vaping can harm parts of the brain that control attention and learning. Photo taken from Pexels.
That’s something not really desirable as a youth myself as these things can cause issues in studies and relationships.
Currently, a more concerning issue is that since vaping is a contemporary trend, there is very little knowledge on its long-term health effects.
“Since the vaping trend is relatively new, we may not have the exact knowledge on the long-term effect of vaping after 10 or 20 years or longer,” says Dr Aye. “We have already noted that vaping can cause heart disease and chronic lung disease. However, I am more worried about cancer due to certain chemicals in the vaping liquid.”
We have already noted that vaping can cause heart disease and chronic lung disease. However, I am more worried about cancer due to certain chemicals in the vaping liquid.
Since only time will tell what the long-term implications of vaping might be, experts have strongly encouraged that it is not worth picking up vaping.
What can youths do?
Knowing that stress is one of the main reasons for youths picking up vaping, youths can instead try out healthier methods to cope with stress.
“Some mechanisms to cope with stress are relaxation techniques (breathing exercise and meditation), distracting yourself from work, regular exercise and making time for hobbies,” says Dr Aye.
Breathing exercises can help one relax, improve muscle function, increase blood oxygen and reduce heart rate. Photo taken from Pexels.
In the end, the best choice is to not touch vapes at all and not fall victim to peer pressure.
“If anyone pressures you to do it, don’t listen to them,” says Henry. “Listen to yourself. If they force you to, then seek help from your parents, your friends or authorities.”
If anyone pressures you to do it, don’t listen to them. Listen to yourself. If they force you to, then seek help from your parents, your friends or authorities.
If one believes that vaping is a way to quit smoking, it’s important that they try to seek professional help instead. If you know someone who is currently vaping, it would be great to ask them to seek the help of family and let them know the true extent of the damage vaping can cause.
“If you already are vaping, try your best to stop because it’s going to burn your money. It’s going to waste your life, it’s going to hurt your body and it’s not good for you,” says Henry.
The supposed “safer alternative” to smoking that is popular among youths today is the result of an underestimation of the harmful health effects of vaping.
However, the growing number of educational resources citing the health concerns surrounding vaping brings a greater awareness to this emerging issue. That being said, all of this is only useful if people make an active effort to stop the spread of misinformation too, which may very well save a life in the process.