Many people who get to work with teens and young adults on a regular basis have noticed a surge in e-cigarette use and vaping. These firsthand observations are backed up by several surveys. For example, the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey found a 78% increase in e-cigarette use in high schoolers between 2017 and 2018. That same year a NIH survey found that 37% of 12th graders had tried or were regularly vaping.
Originally, vaping was promoted as a way for tobacco consumers to quit smoking. But today, many vapers have never used anything but e-cigarettes and the various e-liquids that go in them. And while vaping is considered less harmful than smoking cigarettes it is still not considered safe.
Unfortunately, many vapers have a poor understanding of the contents of the aerosols they are inhaling and the possibly health risks associated with these contents.
One reason for this is that there remain large gaps in what we’d like to know about the safety and long-term health effects of vaping and what we currently know. In part this is because vaping is a more recent (although rapidly growing) phenomenon and many of its negative health effects may appear only after repeated and long term use. In addition, the chemicals found in e-liquids and their aerosols are diverse and unpredictable which makes studying and describing the health effects of vaping much more difficult. Another reason is that health education on the potential risks of vaping has lagged far behind that of other tobacco products.
Scientists are working to narrow both these gaps. In the clinical setting researchers are working to determine the short and long term health effects of vaping through experimentation rather than waiting to observe them in users. Meanwhile hospitals, doctor associations, the US government, and even education powerhouses like Scholastic have developed curriculums that aim to educate and inform students about vaping and its risks.
Edvotek is joining in this educational push by doing what we’re best at – developing hands on experiments that promote science learning and a better understanding of real world issues. We know that talking about a hot button health issue like vaping can be a challenge, particularly because the decision to vape is a personal choice, a popular thing to do, and in many cases an addictive activity. So, we developed an experiment where students got to be the investigators and discover for themselves the contents of three (simulated) e-liquids. In the process they’ll also explore the science behind chemical separation, polar molecules, and thin layer chromatography.
Interested in teaching and learning about vaping? There are many excellent educational tools!
Scholastic with support from the FDA and HHS has created an online curriculum called The Real Cost of Vaping that’s for both younger students (6-8 grade) and older students (9-12 grade) including videos, research projects, info graphics, and even coloring pages.
Stanford Medicine’s Vaping Prevention: A Remote-Learning Curriculum has six units, each with power points, activities, quizzes, and discussion guides. The first unit has also been translated in to Spanish and Chinese.
The American Lung Association INDEPTH course is broad and comprehensive. It consists of four 50 minute sessions and its goal is to “educate students about nicotine dependence and cravings and ultimately guide them through the process of identifying their own reasons for chewing, smoking or vaping tobacco products.”
Maryland Department of Health website The Vape Experiment is a succinct but powerful jumping off point to learn more about the current science behind vaping health concerns. Similarly, the CDC site is an excellent source of information and does a particularly good job at summarizing last summer’s outbreak of dangerous lung injuries that were eventually linked back to vaping.
Finally, check out our new kit Dangerous or Delicious: Using Chromatography to Examine Vaping to see if this experiment is a good match for your classroom!