Why Vaping Is More Harmful Than We Think


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Vaping, A New Epidemic In SA

Vaping has become a global phenomenon and has gained immense popularity in South Africa. However, a recent study by pulmonologist Professor Richard Van Zyl-Smit from the University of Cape Town showed that vaping is more dangerous to the body than previously thought. According to the study, 25% of matric pupils use vapes, and nearly 30% of those surveyed use a device soon after waking up in the morning, with almost a quarter of them requiring their vape to get through a school day.

Vapes are electronic devices that simulate tobacco smoking, but instead of smoke, the user inhales a vapor from a cartridge. Although vaping was initially seen as less dangerous than smoking, it has proved to be more harmful.

Vaping is proving to be more harmful than many expected

Professor Van Zyl-Smit warns, “They are certainly not without harm, and, compared to fresh air, far more dangerous than anyone should be inhaling. We saw what tobacco did… we are not prepared to do the same thing and wait 50 years before everyone drops dead of blue-spotted lung disease which we did not in any way predict”. Experts agree that more education is required on the harmful trend of vaping.

Why Vaping Is So Popular Among Teens

The trend of vaping has a lot of similarities to the influence of social media on teens. Both industries heavily target this age group through savvy marketing techniques. The accessibility and easy availability of vaping products and social media platforms contribute to their growing influence. Vaping and social media often become intertwined as young people showcase their vaping habits on social media, further perpetuating the trend.

Dean McCoubrey, a specialist in “modern life skills” from the MySociaLife programme, warns that modern life skills education becomes essential in addressing the underlying reasons for vaping. Educating students about the psychological factors that drive their behaviour, such as the need for belonging, brain development, insecurity, and peer influence, helps them understand their choices critically. By equipping them with the knowledge and skills to navigate these influences, this hyper-relevant approach empowers young individuals to make informed decisions and resist potentially harmful trends.

The Dangers of Vaping

Van Zyl-Smit warns that vaping products are not without harm and highlights that vaping is harmful compared to breathing fresh air. The potential dangers of vaping include:

  • Pulmonary disease: Vaping can lead to lung problems, and there have been cases of people developing serious lung conditions such as pneumonia.
  • Cardiovascular disease: Vaping has a negative effect on blood vessels, which can cause damage to the heart.
  • Brain development: Adolescents are more susceptible to peer influence, seeking novelty, and experimenting with new behaviours, so they are more likely to adopt trends such as vaping due to a desire for acceptance and a sense of belonging. Unfortunately, vaping can negatively affect brain development and decision-making processes in the long run.

How to Address Vaping Among Teens

To address vaping among teens, educators and parents should take a balanced approach to educating young people about the potential dangers of vaping. Fear-mongering campaigns surrounding the potential harm of vaping, such as the idea of getting “popcorn lungs”, will likely fall short of deterring teenagers. It may be more effective to focus on the underlying factors that drive vaping in the first place, such as the need for acceptance and peer influence.

Understanding the neurobiology of adolescents is key to grasping their susceptibility to pop culture trends. By approaching vaping education through the lens of modern life skills, educators and parents can give young people the tools and knowledge they need to make informed decisions and resist potentially harmful trends.

At the end of the day, the impact of vaping on teenagers and pre-teens, coupled with the parallels to the ethics of social media platforms, underscores the need for smarter intervention by adults.

Other lessons and useful information by MySocialLife is available via www.mysocialife.com

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