Call me crazy or out of touch with today’s latest craze but I just don’t get Vaping and I’m pretty sure I probably won’t ever get it. The thought of taking in “flavoured vapour” with a hit of nicotine while all this vapour escapes as you exhale looks…well…. just plain stupid. Not to mention holding on to something that looks like a rather large pen or injection needle. To be blunt, it just looks dumb.
I do however recognize that my lack of understanding or acceptance of vaping doesn’t make me correct or definitely doesn’t make me cool with the kids. But, I’m not looking to be cool, I’m just trying to figure out the real impact of vaping on kids these days, especially the impact to athletes.
Why do I care? Why even write a blog about it? Well, it comes from a place of disenchantment and just plain frustration. My belief is that that these kids have been sold a bag of goods which in the end will only succeed in causing lung and respiratory issues and affect them more in the future than we initially believed. Take smoking for example. Once upon a time, everyone smoked, it was cool to smoke, it was high class, everyone was doing it so you had to do it too. There even was belief out there that smoking was actually “good” for you. It removed stress, slowed down your heart rate and relaxed you and it was even recommended to pregnant women to keep weight off. How ludicrous these statements look today knowing what we know? I suspect Vaping which has been sold as “it’s just water vapour” will adorn the same crown as smoking is today…just plain bad for you. To be truthful, there hasn’t been enough research and not enough time has passed to really know the true healthy risks and the affects that Vaping causes. However, we can no longer ignore that there have been 18 Vaping related deaths and over 1000 hospitalizations due to vaping, a lot of those cases are kids on respirators and breathing machines. I can tell you that as a coach of young athletes, mostly elementary and high school athletes, I see the effects that Vaping is having on athletes each and every day. Its mind boggling.
Breaking it down:
First, let’s look at the Cartridges that are used with Vaping. Contained in these cartridges is Nicotine, artificial flavourings and chemicals. Nowhere in the list of ingredients does it say “water vapour”. In actual fact the contents – aka, the chemical concoction gets heated by a battery into a chemical vapour which a person inhales.
Nicotine is an extremely addictive additive found in cigarettes and now Cartridges used in Vaping. Nicotine has been highly linked to slowing down brain development in kids and teens and also affects memory, concentration, learning, self-control, attention and mood. It also increases the risk of other types of addictions such as harder drugs.
2. Chemicals & Flavourings:
No one really knows the true nature of these ingredients as they vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. All I know is that these chemicals and flavourings are not those required by our bodies to function day in day out. Any chemical exposure either via smoking, vaping or ingestion is not good for our bodies no matter what anyone is trying to convince you otherwise.
The causes of the Chemicals and other Flavourings in by these E-cigarettes are irritated lungs, lung inflammation, serious lung damage and even death and it can lead to smoking cigarettes and other forms of tobacco use. Typically, symptoms start gradually with shortness of breath and or chest pain before more sever breathing difficulty leads to hospital admission. Some substances also found in e-cigarettes have also been linked to an increased risk of cancer. Vaping has also been linked to cardiovascular diseases, acid reflux, negative effect on reproductive organs and erectile disfunction. Vaping may also increase coughing and wheezing and may exacerbate asthma. Secondary exposure to vapour also puts the public at risk of these same effects.
Cause & Effect:
Studies are now also showing that more elementary and high school kids have tried vaping then have tried cigarettes. There has a been a 78% increase in youth Vaping in Canada from 2017 to 2018. While vaping was touted as the new smoking cessation tool, it actually has created a dramatic increase in the number of kids who have now tried vaping. The risk means, more kids addicted to nicotine and more likely to start smoking cigarettes eventually. I would say these are some pretty disturbing red flags that are going unnoticed. I believe studies in the near future will show a dramatic increase in youths smoking and an increased level of youths who have tried smoking. The smoking rate for youths also increased 45% from 2017 to 2018.
The Impact of Vaping on Athletes:
Studies and real time evidence are showing us that athletes who Vape, are more likely to be struggling to breath, keeping up with teammates and experience less motivation to practice and or attend games. Athletes who vape are more likely be unable to attend practices and/or perform because they are too sick due to the relationship between vaping and respiratory types of illnesses. Consider that a simple common cold can now become much worst in those who Vape. As a coach I see the effects of Vaping on athletes. Even the simplest of tasks such as a warm up jog is demanding for them. A lot of them complain about their breathing, how their lungs are burning and they can’t get enough air in their lungs. Workouts that are designed to be simple and not too challenging become hard for these athletes and they barely struggle to make it thru. As a coach I’m left scratching my head, are the workouts too hard or is it the athletes? Considering that these kids are in their prime and should be able to take the physical demands of a warm up jog, I’m going to go with the assumption that Vaping is one the leading causes.
So Why do kids Vape?
In order for me to really understand this phenomenon, I had to go to the source…kids in High School and Elementary School. I asked them a few general questions, why they vape, is it common place to vape and if they knew the side effects of vaping and if so, did they care? So, why do kids vape?
For some kids, it was to help them quit the bad habit of smoking. So essentially, they replaced one bad habit with another one. Is this one habit less toxic then the next? The jury is still out on this. Another reason why kids vape is to get the Headrush that comes with vaping. It makes kids feel light headed, more relaxed and some claim they are more able to focus. Another cause is Boredom. While I can think of a million more things to do when bored, this is the choice amongst teens. Another quite compelling reason (insert sarcasm here) is that it is seen as a rite of passage, a rebel without a cause. It’s something their parents don’t want them to do, so they do it in spite of their parents’ wishes. Lastly, they do it because Travis Scott does it. While I’m not 100% sure Travis vapes, I’m sure the glamorization of Vaping by music artists is a compelling argument when you are an easily influenced teenager.
Do Kids know and care about the side effects:
Most kids I spoke to were aware of the media attention that Vaping has garnered over the last while. However, the majority believe that out of those cases that have been reported (18 vaping related deaths and 1000 hospitalizations) these were reserved for those who vaped multiple times a day and/or use the “Giant Vapes” available which deliver even more potent chemicals. Most kids still operate under the assumption that it’s never going to happen to them and if it is, it won’t be that serious. In a nutshell, they weren’t overly concerned and would continue vaping. Kids reported vaping about 3X a day on a daily basis. I also inquired about their own perception on how many kids, have tried vaping. Unequivocally, all said the same thing: All on a scale of 1-10, 10 kids would have at least tried it. Out of the 10 kids who tried it, 5 out of 10 now own their very own Vape. What I find probably more disturbing is that the legal buying age for Vapes is supposed to be 19 however we’ve seen it reported in kids as young as in Grade 6.
With a 78% increase in vaping in youths and the fact that most kids in High School with a few exceptions have tried vaping and now nearly half own a vape I think it’s a reasonable assumption that we are going to see a dramatic increase in cigarette smoking and a lot more health concerns as a direct cause to Vaping.
Athletes involved in sports will more than likely see an impact on their performance at practice and on game-day and probably will lose the motivation to keep on going. That could mean losing a scholarship down the road and just quitting sport entirely. I believe we are going to see a lot more athletes with breathing difficulties and an increase in vape-related lung inflammatory diseases and cardiovascular diseases. The impact on society as whole – well I can’t say exactly what will happen but I just know it can’t be good.