By Ayla Ajanovic
In more recent times, vaping and the use of E-Cigarettes has become popular among young adults. E-Cigarettes were first introduced to serve as an alternative to conventional smoking. Recently, vaping has grown due to social pressure, young adults’ curiosity, and the flavoring/taste of the products. All vapes work on the same premise: a battery source (vape mod) powers a heating element (coil) that vaporizes e-juice in a small chamber (atomizer). The user then inhales the vapor through a small mouthpiece (Mann, 2020). These devices are relativity small in size and are easy to just put in your pocket, which makes them easily accessible to the user. Short term effects have revealed a connection with respiratory and cardiovascular issues due to vaping. With these respiratory and cardiovascular issues rising, it puts into perspective how a human body could react if catching the deadly virus of COVID-19.
Research on COVID-19 is rapidly evolving due to the millions of lives that have been lost. Currently available evidence suggests smoking could increase risk of becoming infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, by weakening the immune system (Grummon et al. 2020). Smoking has been known to be harmful to your body and causing a weaker immune system, therefore, if one is an avid smoker they are more likely to contract COVID-19. A survey of US adolescents and young adults (ages 13–24) conducted in May 2020 found that those who had ever vaped were more likely to report having been diagnosed with COVID-19 compared with never vapers, though no association was observed between recent (past 30 days) vaping and COVID-19 diagnosis (Grummon et al. 2020). Vaping is taking over in adolescents which is extremely concerning, not only because they are too young and still growing, but because the use of these harmful chemicals is going to affect them in the long run.
Vaping in adolescents and young adults has become a dominate target market for vaping in the recent years. Vaping is up across all adolescent age groups measured: Nearly 10% of 8th graders report vaping in the past 30 days (with 6% reporting that they vaped nicotine), and 25% of 12th graders reported vaping within the past 30 days (21% vaped nicotine) (Hull 2021). The rise in these numbers proves that social pressure is one of the most prominent reasons as to why vaping is growing among the youth. With these concerning numbers, actions need to be put into place to stop the rise from continuing.
One experiment, performed by eight researchers, took place in May of 2020. This study examined the extent to which messages about traditional health harms and COVID-19 harms were perceived to discourage smoking and vaping. During this experiment, there were two independent experiments that were conducted. One was to test smoking messages and the other one to test vaping messages. Both of these experiments used the same design by randomizing participants to one of six message conditions. The first factor varied the traditional health harms, included in the message: three harms, one harm, or absent. Within the one traditional health harm condition, participants were randomized to view messages about immune function, lung damage, or heart disease. These harms were combined for the three traditional health harms condition (Grummon et al. 2020). The second factor varied the COVID-19 harm included in the message (present or absent). Within the COVID-19 harm present condition, participants were randomized to see messages about COVID-19 infection, hospitalization or death (Grummon et al. 2020).
The researchers had developed the smoking and vaping messages guided by existing scientific evidence and by messages currently in use by agencies such as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In order for this research to be successful, when each message was sent out, researchers presented each message as a tweet from the CDC to provide realism and context for the participants. Control messages presented generic text about cigarette and e-cigarette products adapted from Wikipedia to be neutral and similar in length to intervention messages (Grummon et al. 2020). The researches wanted to go about this experiment in a way were they knew it would be effective. Sending messages as a tweet was a very smart thing to do because tweets are not too long in length but still get the point across and grabs the reader’s attention.
The researchers had made three predictions for both the smoking and vaping experiments. The researchers had first predicted that messages that describe one traditional health harm would elicit higher perceived message effectiveness than messages that describe no traditional health harms, and lower perceived message effectiveness than messages that describe three traditional health harms, based on a study of cigarette warnings. Second, they predicted that messages that describe COVID-19 would elicit higher perceived message effectiveness than messages without discussion of COVID-19. Finally, they predicted that the combined effects of a traditional health harms message and a COVID-19 message would be less than additive (ie, diminishing returns from additional message elements), based on studies of cigarette and sugary drink warnings (Grummon et al. 2020). Based on what the researchers had studied, they had determined that the messages that had higher perceived message effectiveness were the messages that had included one traditional health harm and messages that describe COVID-19.
At the end of this experiment researchers concluded that messages with one or three traditional health harms elicited higher perceived message effectiveness for discouraging smoking. Messages that included a COVID-19 harm also elicited higher perceived message effectiveness compared with control messages. Messages that included one or three traditional health harms were perceived to be more effective for discouraging vaping than messages without traditional health harms. Three traditional health harms did not have a stronger impact on perceived message effectiveness than one harm. Vaping messages with a COVID-19 harm did not elicit higher perceived message effectiveness ratings compared with messages without a COVID-19 (Grummon et al. 2020). With these results it is easy to concluded that messaging health harms can discourage vaping and smoking. The messages that were sent out were not long in length and focused on main points and not something so vague. I believe that this was the main reason as to why this experiment was successful in proving that vaping and smoking can be discouraged.
Overall, I think that this experiment that was conducted was successful. This experiment was able to provide more knowledge about what needs to happen in order for change to occur. The more information that is spread out through people, the higher chance there is that people quitting vaping. It is apparent that vaping in adolescents and young adults is rapidly increasing. With this being said, this experiment proved that sending out messages about health harms and COVID-19 would be able to discourage the amount of people who smoke and vape. Finally, if you are looking to quit vaping, getting one of these messages sent to you would benefit you in moving forward with quitting.
Grummon AH, Hall MG, Mitchell CG, Pulido M, Sheldon JM, Noar SM, Ribisl KM, Brewer NT. 2020 Nov 13. Reactions to messages about smoking, vaping and COVID-19: two national experiments. Tobacco Control. doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2020-055956. [accessed 2021 Feb 17]. https://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/early/2020/11/12/tobaccocontrol-2020-055956
Mann J. 2020 Nov 19. Vaping 101: Plus How to Vape and Inhale Correctly. Vaping360. [accessed 2021 Feb 17]. https://vaping360.com/learn/what-is-vaping-how-to-vape/.
Hull M. 2021 Jan 18. Teen Vaping Addiction. 2019 Aug 26. The Recovery Village Drug and Alcohol Rehab. [accessed 2021 Feb 24]. https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/teen-addiction/drug/teen-vaping/.
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Vaping leads to heavier cigarette use among teens. 2020 Apr 10. USC News. [accessed 2021 Feb 24]. https://news.usc.edu/168364/vaping-combustive-cigarettes-smoking-usc-research/