Darth Vaper: Don’t believe the hype


The classic tobacco cigarettes that our parents grew up either smoking or witnessing hundreds of people smoke daily, have produced offspring known as e-cigarettes (electronic cigarettes) and hookah/shisha pens. The e-cigarette is a cigarette that does not use tobacco and is charged by battery, yet provides the user with the same traditional smoking experience.

In an annual government survey of 41,000 students, e-cigarettes were found to be more popular among some teen groups than regular cigarettes. According to the survey, about 16 percent of tenth-graders have tried an e-cigarette before.

E-cigarettes are marketed as healthier, cheaper, and cleaner than traditional cigarettes, as well as not producers of secondhand smoke.

They are activated when a button is pressed, while hookah or shisha pens are activated simply by suction.

However, the significant difference between the two is that e-cigarettes are used as a nicotine supplier for tobacco smokers by delivering to the user a nicotine-infused aerosol. Hookah or shisha pens are designed purely for flavor enjoyment – no nicotine added – and recreational purposes.

“I think it’s [hookah] better than cigarettes, but not better than pot honestly, because pot has a purpose all over the world medicinally and just a feel-good type of way,” said a DHS sophomore.

Because of the desired physical effects that marijuana provides, the substance has been able to maintain its popularity against the competition of hookah and e-cigarettes, and is oftentimes preferred over any other type of smoking.

An anonymous DHS junior said, “I smoked hookah because it was flavored, and I wanted to learn tricks with my friends. I never really inhaled it deep down like I would with weed because that’s more for the high where this was more for fun.”

Despite the obvious differences between hookah and weed, the two are viewed as activities that walk somewhat hand in hand. If you have a hookah pen, then you’ve probably smoked weed before or will smoke eventually, and if you smoke weed then you’ve probably used a hookah pen before.

“It [hookah pens] kind of has a bad reputation. A lot of people may assume that because you use a hookah pen you’re automatically a stoner,” said a DHS senior.

It seems that what encompasses the teen user’s preference is the decision between either the feeling of getting high or inhaling a pleasant taste.

A DHS junior said, “I have never smoked an e-cigarette or a real one, but pros of hookah are that it’s less harmful than weed and real cigarettes, and it doesn’t burn as much as weed does when you take a hit. The cons are that you don’t get high from hookahs or cigarettes, which is really the only reason to smoke.”

Inside the Pick’ N Pay Food Mart & Smoke Shop on Dartmouth Street, the whole checkout counter and wall behind it was stocked with smoking paraphernalia. There was an almost completely full box of hookah pens on the counter and according to the employee at the register, this box had been open for the past six months.

The e-cigarettes weren’t hot sellers either among young customers (18-20 years old) because they cost more. The good quality, reusable e-cigarettes can cost up to $39. As it turns out, flavored wrapping paper has become increasingly popular with teenagers. They are cheap, two for 99 cents, versatile, being able to accommodate either tobacco or marijuana, and come in attractive flavors such as grape, watermelon, and mango.

When the employee was asked his opinion on smoking, specifically among young adults, he said, “If they have money, they can spend it however they would like. If the government can’t control it, how can I? If the government has no problem, I have no problem.” Before I left the shop, a man came in to buy a pack of Marlboro Lights.

I’ve never been one to pass judgment on anyone for smoking cigarettes – whether tobacco or electronic – or using hookah pens, as I am a firm believer in that what someone does with her own body is nobody else’s business, yet I suppose I will never be able to fully understand those who smoke tobacco cigarettes.

DHS nurse Nurse Wildrick said, “I think any kind of artificial smoking, or any kind of smoking of any sort, is very harmful.”

At so young an age, we are made aware of the countless health risks that come with smoking tobacco. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States, including close to 42,000 deaths resulting from secondhand smoke exposure.

Danger can be found even in the usage of e-cigarettes. In lab tests conducted in 2009, the FDA found noticeable levels of toxic cancer-causing chemicals, as well as an ingredient found in antifreeze, in two popular brands of e-cigarettes.

The price of cigarettes alone is enough to make me stay away. $10 a pack? I’d rather spend my money on Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. All of the artificial chemicals in those may kill me too, but at least they will take longer to do the job than cigarettes, and my mouth won’t taste like China’s air quality.