The Tobacco Industry is not only guilty of killing our lungs, but they are also guilty of killing the planet. Whether it is cigarette butts or single-use disposable vape devices, the earth is covered in them. Over the past few years when walking around anywhere, I have always seen cigarette butts and disposable vapes. My object of concern is disposable plastic nicotine devices, vapes. I feel that the long impact of cigarette butts coming from the same industry must also be lightly included within the paper. I feel that this is necessary because the reason we have these disposable devices is that they are “better” than cigarettes and were invented to help smokers quit.
A Short History
The history of vaping, or vaporizing began long ago with the Ancient Egyptians as they knew special practices of heating herbs and oils on a stone that could be inhaled. Later in Northern Africa shishas, a long water pipe used to smoke tobacco became a well-known phenomenon. More well known, the hookah, which was invented in India, and is still used today all over the world. A few other people attempted to make a “smokeless cigarette” (When Did Vaping Start?) but none truly took off until a Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik, who successfully created the first vape-like device. He created the company, Ruyan, which spread the e-cigarette to the Middle East and Europe. In the year 2007, the United States allowed for e-cigarettes to be imported into the US. Since then, the vape industry has boomed and seems like it will continue to do so.
What I have seen the most of while in high school was JUUL, and today I see mainly disposable vape devices that have a certain amount of “puffs” or hits. This industry feeds off of young people, the CDC found that in the United States most vape users are more likely to be youth rather than adults (Mock & Hendlin). I have seen some schools take on movements against vapes like Palo Alto High School, where the ASB took on an anti-vaping committee to confront the issues coming along with vaping (Jain). Some of these issues are social division, the rising death toll related to vape related illnesses, the litter, and many more.
Vapes are not only harmful to our bodies, they are also extremely harmful to the environment. Vape waste has increased heavily within the past decade. Along with this increase in vape waste, we have seen three large environmental issues coming from vapes: an increase in single-use plastic, an increase of tech waste from vapes, increase in hazardous chemicals that are toxic to the environment(Vape Waste: More Harmful Than You Think). As a large portion of vape users are young adults, and a large portion in high schools and even middle schools, users do not understand how to properly discard the devices. One high school in Boulder, Colorado is suffering from a large influx of underage students using vapes (Daley). Not only does this impact the students, but also the environment. Vapes contain several harmful chemicals within them: plastic, lithium-ion batteries, nicotine e-juice, and packaging materials. As the batteries are lithium-ion based and when not properly disposed the batteries break down and leach harmful toxins into the environment.
Not only does the battery have toxins, but the nicotine e-juice is also a huge problem. Even a small amount of nicotine left within a pod can poison an animal. Researchers have even found lead, nickel, and tin within vapes which will leak into the environment as well. “Toxic chemicals from commercial tobacco product waste can accumulate in animals, soil, and aquatic ecosystems, leading to contaminated drinking water and foods and posing additional downstream risks to human health and the environment” (Daley). Due to the toxic e-liquid left behind in pods, the US has yet to find a proper way to dispose of the pods and safely recycle them. All the US can do for now is to properly dispose of vapes at recycling centers, that is if users will even go that far. It seems that the only real way we can tackle the environmental issue which comes along with vaping is to not vape at all.
Risks and Hazards
There is a lot of risk and hazard which comes along with vaping. Vapes were created to help adults stop smoking nicotine products, but researchers have not seen this effect. Researchers have found that after vapes being brought onto the market very few adults are using them to help quit (Action needed on e-cigarettes). As JUUL claims to target adults above the age of 21, researchers have found that only “1.1% used JUUL alone, 5.6% used other e-cigarettes alone” (Only 3% of adult smokers used JUUL to quit in past year). Researchers have found that the tobacco industry has used marketing as a way to attract underage kids into buying the products. The tobacco industry has managed to package these deadly and addictive vapes in bright colors with fruit and candy flavors, all appealing to a younger and illegal audience. Flavored pods and juice will only further the youth vaping epidemic.
Another hazard that comes along with vapes, accidental nicotine poisoning. The Poison and Drug Centers have received many calls related to accidental nicotine poisoning from vapes that were not properly discarded. A fair amount of users are guilty of littering their vape waste. Imagine playing with your baby at the park and when you turn around for a moment and your child has an old pod in their mouth and they get nicotine poisoning. There are even incidences of young children and babies getting a hold of spilled nicotine juice or a JUUL sitting on a countertop. It is not something that should be laughed at. Nicotine is poison.
I find it very clear that the tobacco industry has managed to control a large amount of people within the United States due to the highly addictive chemical, nicotine, within their products. There is a clear negative impact the tobacco industry, specifically vapes, is having on our society. Whether it comes down to our minds, lungs, the planet, or even the future, vapes are having an impact. Vapes are becoming more and more popular and will continue to do so unless we take action against them. Purchasing these products will not only have a negative impact on you, but also everyone around you and the earth. People need to understand the impacts the industry is having and call for change.
Action needed on e-cigarettes. (2020, November 13). Retrieved December 17, 2020, from https://truthinitiative.org/research-resources/emerging-tobacco-products/action-needed-e-cigarettes
Daley, J. (2019, November 28). How Vaping Could Be Damaging The Environment. Retrieved December 17, 2020, from https://www.npr.org/2019/11/28/783551058/how-vaping-could-be-damaging-the-environment
Daley, J. (2019, November 29). Don't Toss That E-Cig: Vaping Waste Is A Whole New Headache For Schools and Cities. Retrieved December 17, 2020, from https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/11/29/780865248/dont-toss-that-e-cig-vaping-waste-is-a-whole-new-headache-for-schools-and-cities
Jain, K. (2019, October 24). Paly ASB starts anti-vape commitee. Retrieved December 17, 2020, from https://palyvoice.com/151605/news/paly-asb-starts-anti-vape-commitee/
Mock, J., & Hendlin, Y. H. (2019, October 10). Notes from the Field: Environmental Contamination from E-cigarette, Cigarette, Cigar, and Cannabis Products at 12 High Schools - San Francisco Bay Area, 2018–2019. Retrieved December 17, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/68/wr/mm6840a4.htm
Robbins, Paul. (2014). Environment and Society: A Critical Introduction, Environmental Ethics. Blackwell publishing.
Robbins, Paul. (2014). Environment and Society: A Critical Introduction, Risks and Hazards. Blackwell publishing.
Only 3% of adult smokers used JUUL to quit in past year. (2020, September 25). Retrieved December 17, 2020, from https://truthinitiative.org/research-resources/emerging-tobacco-products/new-study-only-3-adult-smokers-used-juul-quit-past
Unknown, E. (2020, September 2). When Did Vaping Start? Retrieved December 17, 2020, from https://www.vaporesso.com/blog/when-did-vaping-start
Vape Waste: More Harmful Than You Think. (2020, August 11). Retrieved December 17, 2020, from https://tobaccofreeca.com/environment/vape-waste-more-harmful-than-you-think/