Decades after Americans discovered the harmful effects of cigarettes, USC researchers are now contending with the sleek, new iteration of nicotine addiction: the vape and e-cigarette.
USC News news announced Monday that the federal government has entrusted USC with a $17.8 million grant to research the marketing and regulation of tobacco products. Much of this research will focus on new ways young people are consuming nicotine like vaping and electronic cigarettes. The research will also investigate the addictive properties of vaping and how e-cigarette companies market nicotine flavors to target young people.
According to a study earlier this year from the National Academies of Science, “the exposure to nicotine and toxicants from the aerosolization of flavorings and humectants depends on device characteristics and how the device is used.”
In other words, the choice of cartridge determines can the level of harm. For example, a single nicotine cartridge for a Juul, a popular e-cigarette brand, has up to 59 milligrams of nicotine, which is equal to about one pack of cigarettes according to Juul. According to researchers, e-cigarettes with higher concentrations of nicotine are more likely to be addictive.
Due to a shortage of information on the long-term effects of vaping, some people may not be aware of exactly what vaping does to their bodies.
Some USC students believe that vaping is a healthier alternative to tobacco smoking.
Freshman Computer Science Business Administration student Stanton Cook says that he’d “rather have people hooked on vaping rather than smoking cigarettes.”
"I think there's a big difference between being addicted to e-cigarettes than actually being addicted [to] cigarettes," said Cook in an interview. "There's not that many chemicals in the actual vape."
The researchers at USC will investigate the addictive properties of vaping so that students like Cook can have a better idea of what effect vaping has on the body.
A previous study conducted in 2016 by USC researchers found that the flavors—often foods like mint, strawberry, peach—possess their own attractive qualities separate from nicotine that makes vaping more addictive. Local government has voiced concerns about the flavors—the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors plans to discuss implementing a "flavor ban" at their Oct. 2 meeting. They may decide to prohibit the usage of flavored nicotine in vapes, a regulatory move that is also being considered in San Francisco.
Although he vapes, Cook is glad that USC will be looking further into the effects of vaping. “I like the fact that USC is challenging big companies like tobacco companies I know they have a very huge stronghold when it comes to smoking in general,” said Cook.