Samantha Scetta – Editor-in-Chief
Everyone knows cigarettes are no good, right?
Cigarettes have been classified as a group one carcinogen, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), as there is convincing evidence of cancer causing agents in cigarettes. Just a few known carcinogens contained in cigarettes are acetaldehyde, vinyl chloride and formaldehyde.
These chemical compounds are absent from the slew of new age smoking devices such as electronic cigarettes and electronic vaporizers. From a marketing perspective, it’s understandable why these products have been so popular with such a young audience– vaporizers are not directly linked to cancer.
Nicotine is one of the chemicals both tobacco and electronic smoking devices have in common, and just might be the reason that so many young people are partaking in the habit of socially smoking once again… Minus the formaldehyde and vinyl chloride, of course.
The notorious chemical commonly known as nicotine is found in the device labeled as a “Juul” which can be easily overlooked as being a flashdrive and is certainly spotted at bus stops and in the hallways of many high schools nationwide.
According to the Juul’s website, the pod inserted into the Juul contains approximately 200 puffs, which is equivalent to a pack of cigarettes. Assuming someone is going through a pod per week, they would be smoking approximately 5 packs of cigarettes a month.
Juul is still relatively new for substantial research to be done on its harmful effects, however there is plenty of available research demonstrating scientific proof that nicotine is harmful to an adolescent’s neurological development.
The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is located at at the front of the frontal lobe and is an area of the brain that deals with executive functions such as planning and decision making, as well as other complex behavior such as impulse control and organizing attention. Most neurologists have determined that he PFC is not completely developed until the age of 25.
The chemical nicotine reaches receptor molecules on the outside of cells in the brain, specifically those in the prefrontal cortex. Nicotine causes these cells to then release certain chemicals, such as dopamine, to travel along a gap (synapse) between the nerve cells in the brain. When they reach the nerve cell they were traveling to, the dopamine releases the message to the nerve cells which gives nicotine users a temporary high.
With prolonged nicotine use the cells will change, and users end up craving nicotine because the brain is unable to produce their own “feel good” chemicals without a stimulant, which explains anxiety in people who are facing nicotine cravings. It is thought that young people are more susceptible to addiction to nicotine because they adopt the ideology that they will have the physical ability to quit nicotine anytime they want, whereas adults don’t underestimate the addictiveness of the drug.
Although there is not as much research on the subject of nicotine on teenage brains as is probably necessary for our society, enough evidence exists to determine that teenagers who are addicted to devices such as Juuls will need the same interventions as those that are addicted to cigarettes if they decide to stop partaking in the habit.