Written by: Angela Sanginito
The new trend of vaping has feverishly swept the United States. According to an article written for DailyNews by Theresa Braine, as of September 23rd there have been 9 confirmed deaths by respiratory complications due to vaping (Braine, 2019). Minors and adults are taking part in this new activity only to find themselves dealing with serious health problems later. Athlete and student, Adam Hergenreder, can attest to this statement. Recently, Hergenreder spoke with CNNHealth about his current physical state after using the notorious vaping brand, Juul, to smoke. Hergenreder stated that he experienced shivers and vomiting for sometime. Unaware that it had anything to do with vaping, he visited his pediatrician who prescribed anti-nausea medication. Hergenreder did not see any improvement with the medications and after many visits to different physicians, it was then discovered that his symptoms were due to his juuling and tetrahydrocannabinol use. Now, Hergenreder is deemed to have the lungs of a seventy year old at age eighteen. An athlete, Hergenreder is now unsure if he can even pursue his career as an athlete. Hergenreder stated “If I had known what it was doing to my body, I would have never even touched it, but I didn’t know”(Hergenreder, 2019 as cited in Howard, 2019), he went onto say “I wasn’t educated” (Hergenreder, 2019 as cited in Howard, 2019). (Howard, 2019); (Braine, 2019).
After reading, you may be curious- why do people continue to vape despite all of the health risks that come with it? A potential answer for this is unrealistic optimism. Unrealistic optimism is when someone is overly optimistic. Meaning, when someone is overly optimistic it can lead to them thinking that potential risks and events are not likely to happen to them. This is because an individual’s optimism and positive attitude outweighs the potential risks of a situation. This concept relates back to the article because those who continue to vape even after hearing Adam’s story and the recorded fatalities may believe that they are invincible. This is because they think what happened to Adam or other people cannot and will not happen to them. When you ask an ordinary person who specifically still smokes a juul, they may say that it is not dangerous and that they will not have any health scares as a result of the effects of unrealistic optimism. It allows its possessors to feel comfortable with an outside risk or threat because of the invincible, “it won’t happen to me because I am me” mindset (Howard, 2019).
In a peer-reviewed article “Smokers’ unrealistic optimism about their risk” written by N D Weinstein, S E Marcus, and R P Moser, they talked about a research study based on unrealistic optimism with people who smoke cigarettes. In the study, a telephone survey by The H.I.NT.S. ( Health Information National Trends), wanted to collect data to see if unrealistic optimism would be present with people who smoke cigarettes and to see what their responses would be in regards to contracting an illness. They took a sample of 6369 from ages 18 and over and decided to ask them questions based on their smoking history. During the study, the results revealed that the smokers gave a clear sense of unrealistic optimism when it came to comparing their own risk to smoking to other smokers or nonsmokers. The smokers believed that they had a small chance of getting any type of illness from smoking, even though there is data showing how they run a great risk. Included in the article, was a figure that asked the participants what their perceived risk was of getting any type of illness based upon how many cigarettes they smoke daily. All the participants responses ranged in the same area. They all underestimated the potential health risks associated with how many cigarettes each participant smoked daily. In addition, there was another form of data showing their actual risk of getting any kind of illness. The more cigarettes a person smoked a day, the more their risk of contracting an illness increased. Many of the participants who underestimated their potential health risk argued that common myths associated with lowering smoking risks, such as exercising and taking daily vitamins, were actually true and helps them lower their own health risks. This relates to unrealistic optimism in that their belief and positive outlook on these myths overcompensates for the health threat that smoking poses. Therefore, leading to the participants to not view smoking as a health scare because they believe these myths are reversing the detrimental effects of smoking (Weinstein, Marcus, & Moser, 2005).
This peer-reviewed article is related to the CNN article. In both instances, people who smoked or vaped did not seem to think about or accept that either smoking cigarettes or juuling would cause any harm to their bodies. Most teens that actively use the brand, Juul, are all under the impression that they are safer than smoking an actual cigarette. Unaware of the long term effects of vaping, until recent stories of teens dying and getting illnesses started to sweep American headlines. The smokers in the peer-reviewed article also tried to explain their smoking habits, just like the teens did. The smokers tried to feel better about their smoking habits by allowing themselves to think that they do not have the same health risks as other smokers. The myths believed by the smokers in the peer-reviewed article may be consistent with the beliefs of Adam Hergenreder and other teens who vape and smoke. In that, Hergenreder and other teens may also believe that them exercising and taking daily vitamins combats the health risks associated with smoking. Hergenreder also stated that he is an athlete himself. Therefore, his simultaneous exercise and smoking habits is reflected in the example of how believing in these myths fuels unrealistic optimism (Howard, 2019); (Weinstein, Marcus, & Moser, 2005).
Alvarez, V. (2018, October 10). Professors police Juuling. Retrieved from
Braine, T. (2019, September 24). Ninth person dies of vaping-related respiratory illness, second in
Howard, J. (2019, September 13). Teen with vaping-related illness now has lungs like ‘a 70-year-old’s’. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2019/09/11/health/vaping-lung-illness-illinois-teen-profile/index.html.
Maa, J. (n.d.). Commentary: Why Big Tobacco’s investment in e-cigarette maker Juul ought to alarm you. Retrieved October 3, 2019, from https://calmatters.org/commentary/e-cigarettes/. (Flickr photo courtesy of vaping360.com)
Weinstein, N. D. (2005). Smokers unrealistic optimism about their risk. Tobacco Control, 14(1), 55–59. doi: 10.1136/tc.2004.008375