E-cigarettes, already a controversial topic for the dubious knowledge about its effects, nearly resulted in the death in a Fort Worth teen, Tryston Zohfeld, and inevitably restarted the debate of vaping, especially among youth.
According to doctors, Zohfeld suffered respiratory failure as a result of his vaping, and put into a medically-induced coma for his own safety. Doctors were unsure if he’d make it through the crisis. Though it took 18 days in Cook’s Children’s Hospital, the teen made it to recovery. However, the event alone revamped panic among the masses of vaping’s effect.
“I’ve been hearing a lot about vaping lately, especially with the young people that have died recently – or have had a lot of lung problems that doctors are associating with vaping,” school nurse Vicki Stephens said. “It scares me. To me, inhaling and putting anything in your lungs that involves chemicals is dangerous. People don’t even know of all the chemicals in vapes. You don’t really know what you’re getting, so that’s scary.”
The presence of vaping arisen especially in school environments among stressed teens – alongside weed and other stress-reductant drugs. With little information revolving around vaping too, many found it easy to assume it safe.
“What got me into vaping had a lot to do with influences of the media saying ‘nobody else cares, why should I?’,” a senior who requested to remain anonymous said. “You just always see yourself as the exception.”
Though the first mention of electronic cigarettes goes as far back as 1930 with a patent granted to a Joseph Robinson, the product truly entered mainstream society – and youth culture especially – in recent years.
“JUUL Labs takes consumer safety seriously and we have a robust safety and medical monitoring system in place,” E-Cigarette company JUUL Labs said, “We will continue to vigilantly monitor for any evidence of safety issues as we work to combat youth usage and eliminate cigarettes, the number one cause of preventable death in the world.”
While many vape shops maintain the safety of their products, many consumers don’t know what’s in their products – just the various flavors and options stores offer. Subsequently, consumers may not even know the potentially effects it could have on their body, deadly or otherwise.
“Doctors do know that it causes inflammation in your lungs and can cause lung damage. Then the thing that they know the most about of course, is nicotine, so, if you’re vaping using nicotine, doctors already know it’s very addictive,” Stephens said. “In teens especially it can slow brain development.”
Students, too, even those that recognize the potential danger, find quitting to be a constant struggle. Similar to cigarettes and alcohol, e-cigarettes are designed to be addictive – to maintain that constant desire for more.
“Vaping is addictive for sure,” the anonymous senior said. “It’s not like the withdrawals with heavy drugs with body change, it just gives you the consistent feeling of smoke in your lungs, of the cloud. You feel heavy, the amount of cravings become addictive.”
Administration recently began taking steps to handle the issue through social media and announcements. Principal Andy Hagman even took to twitter to discourage students by circulating news of recent vape-related deaths, stating “vape-related companions do not care about you, only your money.”
Whether or not this discouragement has had any sort of effect, the recent deaths certainly have, as the supposed safety e-cigarette companies boasted is now gone. Zohfield and other victims less fortunate as to have survived the ordeal tell a dangerous story and provide a vital lesson in the dangers of addiction – from a rolled-up cigarette or an electronic alternative.
“I didn’t think vaping was good to begin with, but Zohfeld confirms it,” Stephens said, “You don’t think of it as something that could be deadly or causing death when you do it. This is urgent – it’s causing damage somehow and immediately.”