Some teens who vape are experimenting with electronic cigarettes in a way that observers say could expose them to harmful chemicals.
Research recently published in Pediatrics journal has called attention to a vaping practice called “dripping,” in which users drop e-cigarette liquids directly onto the heated coils of the vaping device before immediately inhaling the nicotine-infused vapor produced.
Users inhale stronger, thicker, and more flavorful smoke from the battery-operated devices when they “drip,” but they also risk exposing themselves to toxic fumes that contain high levels of nicotine and harsh carcinogens, such as formaldehyde and acetone, researchers say.
‘Stronger Throat Hit’ Among Vaping’s Appeal
In the recently published study, 26 percent of 1,874 students from eight Connecticut high schools who were anonymously surveyed, reported they had dripped for the thicker smoke produced; 39 percent did it for improved flavor; 28 percent did it for the “stronger throat hit,” or stronger sensation to the throat; and 22 percent said they did it out of curiosity.
Dripping also appeals to some users because it allows them to change out liquid flavors without wasting any of the liquid, Alan Shihadeh, a professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Aerosol Research Laboratory at the American University of Beirut, told CNN for its report about the trend.
E-Cigarette Use Up Among Teens
Vaping has grown in popularity among US high schools students, data show. According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey, an estimated 16 percent of high-schoolers, or 2.39 million teenagers, vaped in 2015. In comparison, 1.37 million high school students smoked cigarettes, the survey shows.
Some research seems to suggest that teen e-cigarette use isn’t lowering traditional smoking among youths. According to CDC data, while smoking rates dropped from 15.8 percent of high school age adolescents in 2011 to 9.3 percent in 2015, e-cigarettes among middle and high school age teenagers continued to increase.
Is ‘Dripping’ New?
While dripping has some health officials on alert, some observers say it’s not a new trend.
Blake Brown, who blogs about vaping, told The New York Times in a recent telephone interview, that the practice has been around for some time–long enough for e-cigarette makers to offer vaping devices that come with the coils already exposed so users can apply the liquid to them.
“There’s a side of vaping that’s super simple, and that’s what most of the public sees,” Brown told the Times. “There’s also a different side to vaping where people like to tinker around with things, take things apart.”
Ray Story, the CEO of Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, toldUSA Today that he considers said the segment of e-cig users who drip is just a small group of people who use the devices.
“At the end of the day, I don’t think they serve any kind of purpose. It’s for monster clouds, and these individuals are manufacturing their own hardware,” Story said. “Many of them really don’t have the background or ability to really put these things together. It’s a lot of the ‘do-it-yourself’ type guys that are into this.”
Inhaling Harmful Chemicals
Whether it’s new or not or appeals to only a small group of vapers, the chemical dangers are real. Liquids vaporized at high temperatures means users could possibly inhale large amounts of nicotine, which is addictive.
Vapers also risk inhaling chemicals that are produced when the liquids burn at high temperatures.
Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin, lead author of the recent study published in Pediatrics and a professor in the department of psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine, told CNN, “Emerging data is also showing that e-cigarettes contain many other chemicals like propylene glycol and glycerine, and they also contain a lot of flavor chemicals.
“Now, all of these are volatile, and when they are heated at high temperatures like we see with dripping, you could produce high levels of carcinogenic compounds.”
The nicotine in those liquids also can be absorbed rapidly through the skin, so handling them can be dangerous.
Although some people view e-cigarettes as a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes, abusing its chemicals can create an array of risks for teenagers.
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