Nationwide, more than 450 people have been sickened and six people have died, according to the CDC. Michael Fant, Nashville Tennessean
Are some people really so senseless that they will vape themselves into bad health and even death? Unfortunately, it seems that way.
Like many others, I have read with horror about what has evolved into a vaping epidemic. Millions of people, mostly teens and young adults, are using and abusing e-cigarettes and other such devices to the point that many are contracting serious pulmonary ailments.
Making matters worse is that Juul, the leading e-cigarette maker, appears to be marketing its product to kids by offering candy flavors like strawberry, watermelon, grape and mint. It has been reported that Juul saw a 600%Â surge in sales during 2016-2017. Yet, many times, young people get bootleg vaping products on the black market.
This is all so mind-boggling because e-cigarettes have been marketed as a â€śsafeâ€ť alternative. Even before this recent onslaught of respiratory ailments linked to vaping, I found this claim puzzling. Why vape a high-content nicotine product to break your nicotine smoking habit, especially when both methods negatively impact the respiratory system? It should be noted that one e-cigarette cartridge contains as much nicotine as a pack of regular cigarettes.
Vaping effects crucial to health
Over the summer, close to 380Â cases of vaping-related respiratory illnesses were reported across the country; at least seven deaths have been linked to vaping. Health officials say symptoms include shortness of breath, coughing, feverÂ and wheezing; some people who vape have had pneumonia, asthma attacks and respiratory failure. Many of the patients with acute lung illnesses vaped THC, a compound that is the main active ingredient of cannabis products, including CBD oil, which was never intended for vaping.
Some scientists argue that vaping itself, even e-cigarettes, can cause respiratory illnesses, for vaping releases potentially harmful enzymes into the lungs. To make nicotine and THC inhalable, they are mixed with solvents, usually an oil. Oil particles may get into the lungs, where they can cause considerable harm â€” lipoid pneumonia, breathing problems, lung inflammation, even death.
This week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and PreventionÂ activated its Emergency Operations Center to enhance inter-agency response to the current investigation into cases of lung injury associated with e-cigarette product use. â€śCDC has made it a priority to find out what is causing this outbreak of e-cigarette or vaping-related injuries and deaths,â€ť CDC Director Dr. Robert RedfieldÂ said.
Vaping is inhaling and exhaling the aerosol or steam, referred to as vapor, produced by an e-cigarette or similar device. Vaping devices consist of a mouthpiece, battery, cartridge for the liquid, and a heating component. Some look like USB flash drives. When the device is used, the heated liquid becomes an aerosol that is inhaled into the lungs.
That aerosol, or vapor, actually consists of fine particles that may contain oil, metal and toxic chemicals, which have been linked to cancer, as well as respiratory and heart disease. Some people use these devices to vape THC; still others vape synthetic drugs instead of nicotine. Some even vape products of uncertain origin that they buy off the street.
Consequently, people have vaped themselves into an epidemic of pulmonary diseases that appears to be impacting teens and young adults who prefer e-cigarettes and other such devices as their choice of health menace.
It has been found that flavored vaping products contain even more chemicals that may be harmful. Of course, young people are attracted to the flavors, and some take to vaping even when they have never smoked a cigarette. According to the surgeon general, the flavor pods have higher levels of nicotine than regular cigarettes. That is of great concern because of the negative impact that nicotine can have on the still-developing teen brain; the brain continues to develop until about age 25. Not surprisingly, there is backlash against Juul for its array of e-cigarette flavors that appeal to young people.
This ban needs to happen
Against mounting pressure from public health officials, parents and educators, the Trump administration recently announced it will ban the sale of most flavored e-cigarettes. This ban needs to happen. Vaping among kids has risen considerably as flavored e-cigarettes have become available. According to the Health and Human Services secretary, 5 million minors, mostly high school students, â€śreported they had used e-cigarettes recently.â€ť A quarter of the countryâ€™s high school students reported vaping in the last 30 days, according to the 2019 annual survey, up from 20% in 2018.
We should be concerned about our young people and do what we can to protect them, at least warn them. Parents, talk to your children about why e-cigarettes and other types of vaping are harmful to them. Tell them that people are dying. We canâ€™t let this new health menace go the way of cigarette and alcohol abuse by claiming millions of lives.
The CDC recommends that cigarette smokers who are trying to quit should see a doctor rather than simply resort to e-cigarettes. Though e-cigarettes have been around for more than a decade, health care agencies and professionals across the country warn that there is much uncertainty about the safety of these devices. What we do know is that they can be dangerous, even deadly.
We all should heed advice from the CDC, which urges people, especially nonsmokers and teens, to just stop vaping. Period.
Use common sense. Your life depends on it.
Lynn Norment is a Memphis journalist who previously was an editor and senior writer for Ebony.
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