At nine o’clock in the morning, some people are getting off the train and rushing to work, some are waiting for coffee on a line that stretches outside the shop, and some are already smoking- that’s nothing unusual. What is unusual is the myriad of people who, instead of lighting a cigarette, puff on a pen-like device and blow out fruity-smelling smoke.
This pen-like device, called a vaporizer or vape, was introduced to the market in 2004. Since then, global usage has rocketed.
Derek Li, a 22-year-old from Brooklyn, says that he used to smoke cigarettes before realizing the harmful effects they posed and switching over to using a vape. “I used to smoke because my friends smoked, and I didn’t think much of it until I realized I was slowly becoming addicted.”
When Derek caught himself craving cigarettes during classes, he knew he had to put a stop to his bad habit. “It felt weird to just watch my friends smoke, so I bought a vape to keep my hands and mouth busy while my friends smoked their cigarettes.”
While there are disagreements among experts regarding the effectiveness of vapes to help smokers quit, Derek says that he hasn’t touched a cigarette since buying his vape two years ago. Studies also show that 20 percent of people who tried e-cigarettes as a quitting aid succeeded in the long term.
A large amount of the increased use of vapes and e-cigs is a result of teens gaining access to the devices, but on the other hand, use of traditional cigarettes has drastically declined among these teens.
Okay, so vapes help people quit, but they’re still harmful, right? People may have been told that vapes are harmful because they contain formaldehyde, which is associated with cancer, but a Portland State study clarified that claim; the devices only contain this harmful chemical when they are used at high voltages, which is seldom the case. According to The New York Times, vaping at a high voltage creates a horrible burning taste; statistics show that most vape users use fruity nicotine-free juice for the sweet flavor, so a burning taste would be just as unappealing to them as formaldehyde.
Martin Grandeise, a 32 year old bank teller at Chase Bank in Brooklyn, is also a vaper. Martin says he was never a smoker, but always went to hookah bars with friends because it was “fun.” He didn’t pay much attention to e-cigarettes at first because they didn’t seem to concern him, but when he saw more co-workers and strangers on the streets vaping, he decided to give it a go.
“I really enjoy vaping- I’ve been doing this for years. I hear a lot of criticism about people who use nicotine-free juice because it’s useless or whatever but I like it because for me I can get the fruity flavors of hookah without the hookah. It’s so easy and convenient- I love it,” he says.
So, is vaping more or less harmful to one’s health than traditional cigarettes? It’s hard to say, because scientists have not yet been able to conduct studies on the long-term effects of vaping, but there are certainly upsides to it.
For starters, users can choose whether or not they want nicotine in their products, a luxury not offered to those who have chosen to stick with traditional cigarettes.
A major concern of smoking has always been the effects it has on those surrounding smokers, known as secondhand smoking. According to popsci.com, secondhand vaping has proven to be less harmful than secondhand smoking; tobacco smoke contains thousands of chemicals, which is thousands of times more than those found in vapor smoke.
So why hasn’t everybody switched over to e-cigarettes and vapes yet if they’re so much less harmful than cigarettes? One main reason is that most people are afraid of the effects it may has, given that it is such a mystery even to scientists.
The fact? Tons of studies have been done, many of which indicate that these products are far less toxic than cigarettes. A long term smoker says that they think vaping is “too fancy,” or “too much work,” so he simply decides it’s better to pull out a lighter and a cigarette every time he needs a nicotine fix.”
“I’m not saying that everyone should vape, I’m just surprised that so many people would rather smoke something that harms themselves and everyone around them,” says Martin Grandeise.