E-cigarettes: The Rise of Vaping and its Effects on International Students

Are you an international student? Do you smoke e-cigarettes? If you answered yes to both, then it may be time you double-checked the small print on your insurance policy. Many insurance plans do not cover injuries incurred while under the influence of illicit substances, something that is becoming increasingly common to add to e-cigarette devices.

E-cigarettes (otherwise known as vapes) became hugely popular in the North American and European markets in 2009, with sales experiencing exponential growth ever since. It’s estimated that Canada has between 308,000 and 946,000 vape users, with numbers steadily climbing each year.

Despite many governments around the world—including the US and the European Union—introducing new regulations to govern vaping, there has been a surge in children and young adults who are up the habit. It is believed that today more high school children and college students use e-cigarettes than those who smoke. While some scientists believe the use of e-cigarettes is better for you than smoking, many other studies are concerned about the unregulated chemicals involved and their long-term health effects. Barry Finegan, a smoking cessation expert and anaesthesiologist at the University of Alberta, previously told Global News that it took the world 50 years to learn that conventional cigarettes cause cancer. “We can’t decide on the danger or lack of danger related to inhaling chemicals [from e-cigarettes] into our lungs until we have long-term data,” he said.


What’s known about e-cigarettes?

The controversy surrounding e-cigarettes, what’s in them, and the effect they have on human health has been ongoing over the past decade. The topic has come back to Canada with a vengeance this year, following the tragic death of a 14-year-old boy in British Columbia. Kyle Losse was found unconscious in his family bathroom with an e-vape beside him. Kyle was taken to hospital and released the next morning, but after a red rash formed and spread across his entire body he was rushed by ambulance to BC Children’s Hospital, where he later died.

It’s unclear if the vape was to blame, but this tragedy brings up the question—what do we actually know about e-cigarettes? E-cigarettes create an aerosol by using a battery to heat up liquid that contains nicotine, flavourings, and other additives, which users inhale into their lungs. They can also be used to deliver illicit drugs, most commonly marijuana. E-cigarettes are currently unregulated and have not been through the same stringent safety checks as cigarettes or medicated nicotine replacement treatments. There is no way of knowing what chemicals these devices contain.

The grieving family is now calling for tougher regulations for e-cigarettes. Worryingly, there is a whole subgenre of e-cigarettes—marketed under product names such as hookah pens, e-hookahs, and vape pipes—that experts believe could attract children and young adults into the market. While the manufacturers of these products say they are not trying to gear products towards young people, the worry is that the disassociation from cigarettes could encourage young adults to try them.


Learning risk

Students should strongly consider the effects an e-cigarette can have on their brain. E-cigarettes are marketed as being “not as bad” for a user as smoking is, but they still contain nicotine. Brain development continues through childhood until about 25 years of age. Long-term nicotine exposure during adolescence and young adulthood can stunt the developing brain. Additional risks could include nicotine addiction or mood disorders. Most importantly for students, nicotine also changes the way synapses are formed, which can harm the parts of the brain that control attention and learning.


Physical effects

If you’re an international student, being aware of what you ingest is particularly important when studying abroad. Travel insurance policies commonly contain exclusions for expenses incurred while under the influence of drugs. This can vary from plan to plan, but if someone was to sustain an injury while under the influence of an illicit drug ingested by vaping, it’s possible that they would not be covered. With marijuana soon to be legal in Canada, this is something to be aware of when studying abroad.


For more articles on health and travel tips, visit Ingle International‘s blog page.

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