By Shelby Stewart
Brandon Twp.- Hunter’s first vape hit was in the eighth grade.
“I started to vape because it looked cool—all the tricks you can do with the vapor and it sounded healthier,” said Hunter, a township resident and Brandon High School graduate.
Hunter’s suggests that young people are trading cigarettes and tobacco products for vape pens.
Vaping is when someone puts a liquid, or juice as it is commonly referred to, into a handheld machine, a vape pen, that turns that juice into vapor. It is similar to e-cigarettes that don’t contain tobacco but can contain nicotine. The juice can come in different flavors too.
According to a 2016 report from the journal Tobacco Control the overwhelming majority of teens who experiment with vaping — about two-thirds of them — use only the flavored vaping juices that contain absolutely no nicotine, marijuana or other drugs.
“Some of my favorite flavors are strawberry hard candy, lemonade punch, and some of the juices I have made myself,” said Hunter.
Though he used to only vape when he was alone, he started doing it more openly once he was of age.
“Being older I want more people to know about vaping and actually learn more about it,” he said.
Though Hunter enjoys it, he acknowledges that he didn’t start for the right reasons.
“If you need to stop smoking, vaping will help you more than anything else,” said Hunter. “So if you just start vaping just to do it, no don’t start doing it, but I’ve also noticed when I’m stressed it helps calm me down. I would say overall vaping is a good thing but if you just want to look cool or do tricks its not worth it for you.”
And though Hunter has never experienced and adverse side effects to his health, they aren’t a healthy alternative.
Dr. David Pinelli D.O. of McLaren Oakland Ortonville knows of the possible dangers that vaping presents.
“While in some ways it may be safer than smoking, it still presents a couple of unique risks,” said Pinelli.
He says the juice has been known to contain carcinogens, cancer causing agents, such as broken down products of formaldehyde and nitrosamines. And since many still have nicotine, they can put a person at greater risk for heart disease.
“They can have even higher levels of some of these things than cigarettes,” he said.
Pinelli says that some states have banned vaping, though Michigan is not one of those states. He says that vaping is not safe for those with heart conditions and the second hand smoke can expose others to high levels of other dangerous chemicals.
“They are not a safe alternative for cigarettes,” he said. “There are other, healthier ways to quit smoking.”
Though vaping is legal in Michigan, it is still treated like cigarette smoking, which means someone has to be 18 to legally vape.
This doesn’t always stop those under 18.
“We haven’t had many cases, but this seems to be more popular with young people than cigarettes,” said Brandon schools superintendent Matt Outlaw.
In the student hand book, according to Outlaw, they are treated the same as tobacco or nicotine products. The first offence for a student found smoking on school grounds would be suspended for three days, and after the fourth offence, students would be recommended for expulsion and referred to local authorities.
One of those authorities has noticed vaping becoming a problem as well.
Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Greg Glover, Brandon substation commander, said that vaping underage has been an issue.
“There have also been issues with them putting marijuana in them,” said Glover. “And underage kids buying nicotine.”
Some of the scents have higher levels of nicotine, he said.
“If parents want to know if they’re kids are smoking, their car will have an odor,” he said. “And their windows will have a sticky film that is hard to clean off.”
Though vaping is legal for anyone over 18, it may not always be safe for someone to do, just like cigarette smoking.