Courtney is joined by Frankie Tack, Clinical Assistant Professor, and Coordinator of the Addiction Studies Minor in the Department of Counseling. Frankie shares some basics of vaping and talks about the health risks specifically for young people.


All right, everyone. Welcome to wellbeing Wednesdays. I am your host, Courtney Weaver. I'm the director over at Well WVU here at West Virginia University. Once again, recording from the comfort of my own home because we are still under a quarantine and doing, practicing social distancing measures, being responsible citizens and all that jazz.

Uh, so with me today. In the virtual world, not in the physical world, but the virtual world is Frankie tech. And so I'm going to let Frankie introduce herself and outline what her role is at the university. Fantastic. Thanks for inviting me on to Wellness Wednesdays. Courtney. Um, yeah. My name's Frankie Tack. I'm clinical assistant professor, uh, West Virginia University in the counseling department. And I coordinate our addiction studies minor, which is. I'm fairly new and completing its second year. All right. And so the topic that we were talking about today and this podcast, is vaping a topic that is growing in the public eye, but also something that's becoming more and more popular with young people.

So a Frankie, how would you define vaping? Well, vaping is, um. The use of an electronic, um, nicotine delivery system. Basically, it's, um, using, um, electricity to generate heat, to vaporize a liquid and inhale it into your lungs. And one of the things we know about vaping is that, um. It's the, the, the, the smoke or what you inhale isn't really a, a vapor.

It's an aerosol. And that's a big difference. Vapors, like what? You get off a tea kettle, when you boil water, aerosol is more like hairspray, I think is the best example. It's, it's, um, tiny particles that then can get deposited in one's lungs. Okay. And so you said nicotine. So what other substances do folks tend to vape.

Yeah. So other than nicotine, the most commonly vaped products are, are cannabis related products. So either herbal or leaf cannabis, but more often it's some type of, um, liquid product or. I'm what they call some tray. And these can be, um, you know, typical strength more can to leave cannabis, but more often than not, they're very, very strong product.

Some with up to 90% THC, which is that psychoactive compound in cannabis. So this is maybe what you've heard of dabs and shatter, and those things can be put into a vape pen. Some victims pins are designed for them. Um, vaping devices. Some are sort of just used nicotine devices that have been for use of a cannabis product, but that's the sec that most popular by far.

But we've also, um, discovered that people are vaping cocaine, they're vaping, methamphetamine. Um, they're pretty much any substance. There may be opioids. DMT is a popular one, ecstasy, so pretty much anything that any psychoactive substance that's used in other ways can be that transformed a few you will to use innovative then.

Wow. I didn't realize that people were vaping. Methamphetamines and cocaine and opioids. It's kind of scary stuff. Um, so would you say that they been is healthier than smoking a traditional cigarette? So, you know, we have to kind of differentiate our bite vaping populations when we have this conversation, because originally electronic cigarettes were designed.

Ostensibly for people who smoke what we call combustible tobacco or cigarettes and pipes and cigars, and they ostensibly were designed to be a, a, um, a bridge to tobacco cessation that you could step down or step off of combustible tobacco, um, to vaporized nicotine. And, um, and that would be better for you.

Um, so for that population, we don't know yet. First of all, the basic answer to this is we don't know yet, but, but it appears that it's likely less harmful. But again, we don't have long-term studies on vaping, but it appears that it is less harmful than smoking combustible cigarettes. So for someone who's using it.

Who's, who's stopping smoking and starting vaping. We're talking about a harm reduction technique, um, for them. But our other population, our, our, um, our naive, if you will, to, uh, nicotine users. So this is like teens and young adults who never smoked cigarettes and they started using nicotine by using, um, a vape device for those people categorically know they are at higher risk.

Using the vape pen than they would have been if they had not started using nicotine at all. And so because especially for those naive users, um, would you say that vaping is an addictive practice without a doubt. Um, and this is one of the concerns, especially for, for tweens and younger teens is, is, and I think this is what we've probably gotten the word out pretty good on it now, but originally those, the kids didn't even know it had nicotine in it.

And nicotine's an extremely addictive substance. We've known this for a long, long time. And there, I mean, there's some argument to be made that it's one of the most, if not the most addictive substance. So absolutely without a doubt, there's, there's well established long-term science on that. So engaging a vape him for a young person is, is engaging in addictive substance that.

That can really hurt them. Right. And as a researcher, um, you see young people in, I mean, commercials around campus, they're vaping and they maybe ingesting more nicotine than you would see in a traditional cigarette. And so what kind of health effects does that have on folks who vape or, well, you know, we, our population is college students, so we're especially worried.

Uh, first of all about addiction and the long-term effects, um, on, on the long and. And, um, the, the damage to the lung, but for people under 25 years old or mid-twenties, I guess we should say, we're very concerned about the fact that their brain is not yet fully formed. Again, there's well established science on that now that the brain doesn't fully develop until the mid-twenties.

And so, um. . I'm inviting nicotine into that developing system. Um, we now know, creates lots of problems, so it can lead to a more rapid formation of addiction to other substances. Um, it impairs cognition. It can impair attention processes, impair learning, impulse control. Um. And it can set the framework for the development of mood disorders like anxiety and depression.

And so, um, the, the brain is just very susceptible at that age to the introduction of nicotine. So yes, we're worried about the lungs. Um, very much so, but we're also worried about all of the neurological and cognitive processes and mood processes that could be really harmed long-term when a young person Bates.

And so particularly, I remember last fall, there were a lot of stories in the news of young people who were hospitalized after vaping substances. So could you talk a little bit more about that, where they vaping, the traditional pods that you could purchase in a convenience store where you could, which contained nicotine or what was happening there?

Well, there were a variety of things going on there. There was no one cause ultimately, um. Found, I guess you'd say for it, it appeared that most of them were vaping, um, black market cannabis products. And so these sort of made in the basement products where there's very little, um, control for, um, um, sterile conditions.

The ingredients aren't. Um, of a consistent quality. There's no real, uh, there's a lot of unknowns about what he's, what's even in there. And then you heat that and ingest it into your lungs. So we think that there was probably, um, a bad batch that got out there and they did track down to one particular pair of young.

Adult males who were cooking, literally cooking this stuff up in their basement and created in their own little pods of cannabis products. But not all the ones who got sick could be traced to cannabis products or back to those two folks. Some were only vaping, um, you know, brand name, nicotine products.

So I think, I think the caution there is that engaging any of it. Is very risky. And so why do you think that vaping is so popular with younger folks? Yeah. Well, I mean, it's, I think first and foremost the same reasons that young people, um, engage smoking cigarettes. You know, young people experiment.

They're establishing their own identities. Um, they have a sense of. Um, being invincible to harm, um, wanting to look cool, wanting to look grown up. You know, smoking has always been associated with that. Well, when vaping came on, you know, we've, we've bent that curve way down when it comes to young people smoking down to something like, I think it was somewhere in the neighborhood of

Well, maybe 15% I'm not positive on that, but but what we saw when vaping hit was that, uh, just that explosion of use use by youth and, and I think it's for all a lot of those same reasons, except now with the perception that it's safe. So I can, you know, I can try something. Maybe that's a little naughty.

Um, we have peer pressure. You know, I want to look cool. I want to look grown up. I'm doing something so-called adult. Um, and they thought it was safe. Um, and of course then we found out it wasn't. But for the kids that already got addicted now, now they're hooked. Um, and so they now need it, not just want it.

Um, there's also the fact that. Um, the vape liquids come in a variety of very kid friendly kid inviting flavors like strawberry shortcake and you know, chocolate cheesecake and all this, you know, bubble gum. And so the, that, that became very enticing to young people and they're sharing here, try my flavor here, try my flavor.

And then the other phenomenon with vaping is this, this big cloud, this big aerosol cloud that is very compelling, I think. And, um, I mean, you've probably heard about the, the different, like challenges on who can make the biggest vape cloud or who can do funny tricks with the vape cloud. And I think that's sort of become of interest to young people.

Yeah, for sure. Uh, and so here at the university, for those who are not aware, uh, WVU is a smoke and tobacco free campus and that does include vaping. And the policy was revised last year and went into effect August 1st of 2019 so vaping is not allowed on campus in our outside of buildings. So for those who don't know, now you do.

Um, and so, uh, let's take a moment and thinking about COVID-19, everything that's happening there, um, does that elevate the risks of contracting in 19 Frankie? Well, you know, COVID-19 is very new. Um, but it looks like it probably does. And I'd like to share with you a couple of things that have come out recently, just on April the first, um.

So the surgeon general for the United States, Jerome Adams, put out a statement that he thinks the reason the U S is having a high number of young people contracting COVID where other countries didn't. You know, the first words on this was, well, this was mainly older people that were getting sick. Young people were kind of immune, and we didn't know why except the U S hasn't really seen that same in the same way.

And they think that I'm vaping. Maybe one of the reasons why. And so, um, vaping makes the lungs more susceptible to infection and diminishes the ability for the lungs and the body to fight off infection. Um, and so also the, um, uh, Dr Nora Volkow, who's the director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse for the U.S. government also said that she thinks, um, young people contracting COVID-19 is probably mostly due to vaping, nicotine and marijuana. And she's also, of course, same. People who smoke tobacco and smoke marijuana also appear to be at higher risk. So, you know, now's the time to quit. If you were looking for a reason. Now's the time to quit vaping because it's going to improve your chances of getting, getting through this coven thing without touching it.

Yeah. Good advice. All right, well, thank you so much, Frankie, for joining us today. Um, I hope everyone learned a little something about vaping. And again, my name is Courtney. I am your host and we will catch you next time on Wellbeing Wednesdays.