Photo courtesy of Flickr (Commonwealth Media Services: Nat)
Photo courtesy of Flickr

Commonwealth Media Services: Nat

Popcorn – Keep it at the Movie Theater

November 18, 2021

Have you ever been happily walking along, minding your own business and a cloud of some type of “smoke” engulfs your nostrils, impairs your vision and leaves you gagging and sputtering as a result of this inconsiderate act?

 It is likely you have either encountered someone rudely blowing second hand cigarette smoke in your vicinity or you have been surrounded by and forced to inhale a cloud of chemicals which was blown into the air as a result of someone vaping.

Vaping refers to the use of an electronic cigarette and the technical name for it is electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS). Vaping first became a “thing” in the United States in 2006 and has rapidly gained popularity over the last fifteen years. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2018 there were 8.1 million adults in the United States that used electronic cigarettes and only 14.9% of all adults had never used one.

 Shockingly, our youth are also using these products and as many as one of every five high school students admit vaping in 2020, many of which have never smoked before.

Electronic cigarettes (E-cigs) come in many forms and some look like USB flash drives, pens, cigars, pipes or even regular cigarettes. E-cigs can contain nicotine, flavoring and other chemicals that help make an aerosol that is then warmed up via a heating element in the device. Some E-cigs also contain marijuana or other drugs. 

This aerosol that has been warmed up is then inhaled to the lungs and eventually blown back into the air. Some of the devices even have a control on how big the “puff” of exhaled smoke can be.

E-cigs can come in many flavors which include various candies, mints, desserts, fruits and menthol. This is an effective marketing strategy because what can be so bad about dessert or candy, right? Well there is plenty wrong with it and it is shocking that people continue using these devices considering there is very little regulation or legislation regarding what chemicals are in these products. 

Most of these E-liquids contain nicotine, a very addictive substance that is linked to harming parts of the brain responsible for impulse control, attention, mood and learning. It is also noted that some labels do not disclose that nicotine is included and products labeled as zero-nicotine have been found to actually contain nicotine after all.

 E-liquids also contain a humectant, such as propylene glycol, which helps retain moisture while the liquid is being headed. Humectant is found in lotions, shampoos and other products such as pesticides and has been linked to irritation of the lungs. This irritation can result in coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. 

There are also heavy metals such as nickel, tin and lead as well as other unstable organic compounds. Don’t these all sound like great things to inhale into your lungs or force others to inhale as a second hand source?

As already mentioned, there are some pretty tasty flavorings available to choose from while vaping but what you may not know is these flavorings may contain diacetyl, a chemical which has been linked to serious irreversible lung disease. This lung disease is called obliterative bronchiolitis and is characterized by scarring and constriction of the small tubes in your lungs which ultimately results in the blocking of air movement required to breathe.

 Diacetyl has been linked to the same lung disease in workers who worked in a microwave popcorn plant. This is where the term “popcorn lung” came about. Popcorn lung results in a chronic cough, wheezing and shortness of breath. This condition is NOT reversible.

So vaping has to be better than smoking right? E-cig promoters claim their devices help smokers quit using cigarettes but there is no actual proof that vaping is less harmful than cigarette smoking. Chemicals used in E-cigarettes are just as addictive as cigarettes and also cause damage to your heart and lungs. 

The State of Illinois does not support a statewide vaping ban, although there are certain indoor areas where it is prohibited. In 2019, Congress passed legislation which requires a minimum age of 21 years to purchase tobacco products, including E-cigarettes. Unfortunately, this is not much of a deterrent as middle and high school officials have their own large collections of confiscated E-cig devices.

Neither of these restrictions seems to stop the regular encounter of overwhelming clouds of “smoke” while in public.

Vaping is not smart. It is linked to lung disease and it is marketed as a smell-good, safe alternative to cigarette smoking. Please make an educated decision on whether or not vaping is for you and if you choose to do it, please be considerate of those around you who have made a healthier choice.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Smoking and tobacco use. Quick facts on the risks of E-cigarettes for kids, teens and young adults. cigarettes-for-Kids-Teens-and-Young-Adults.html?s_cid=OSH_emg_GL0004#what-are-e- cigarettes

Truth Initiative. (2021). E-cigarettes: Facts, stats and regulations. Fact Sheet.

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