Across the country, hundreds of victims are reporting vaping related illness. What is most alarming is that most of the cases involve young adults or teens. Health officials say the illnesses among these groups is a troubling sign of increased use in this demographic. Some are now calling the increase in teen vape use an epidemic.
Teens May Not Understand Risk of Vaping Related Illness
So far, there have been five deaths due to vaping related illness reported in California, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Oregon. More than 500 people are ill across the country with what doctors are still calling a mystery illness.
With five serious illnesses reported in Alabama, Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris says,
“Too many young people believe that vaping is a safer alternative to traditional tobacco products, but the fact is, some of these devices can deliver as much nicotine in a single cartridge as in a pack of cigarettes.”
Harris says that of the almost five million young people who use a type of tobacco product, more than 3 million are e-cigarette users. As doctors across the country identify more and more cases of vaping related illness, investigators are learning more about the illness and how it can impact teens.
Understanding the Dangers of E-Cigarettes
Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are electronic devices that deliver an aerosol vapor to the user by heating liquid. These liquids can contain nicotine, flavoring, and other unknown chemicals. Some liquid cartridges can deliver marijuana. The basic components of an e-cigarette are a battery, heating element, place to hold liquid, and a mouth piece.
E-cigarettes go by many slang terms or brand names such as: vapes, mods, tanks, and electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS). Using an e-cigarette is often referred to as “vaping.” Some brands are designed to be easily concealable and to resemble household items like USB flash drives, pens, or flashlights.
The liquid cartridges used with e-cigarettes can contain harmful substances, not the least of which is nicotine. The liquids may also contain:
- Heavy metals
- Cancer-causing substances
- Illicit drugs
- Lung-irritating particles (especially in the flavorings)
Now that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is investigating the nationwide outbreak of vaping related illness, it is becoming clear just how many people have become sick after using e-cigarettes.
What is Vaping Related Illness?
The mysterious illness associated with vaping first caught the CDC’s attention in April, 2019. Since then, the agency has amassed a file of more than 500 vaping related illnesses, including the five deaths. Symptoms of the illness include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
At this time, the only thing CDC officials know for sure is that the illness is related to vaping. Each patient reports recently using e-cigarettes. Some, but not all, report vaping THC products. THC is the intoxicating chemical found in marijuana. There is no infectious disease linked with the outbreak, and the cause appears to be chemical exposure via the vaping device.
Teens Are of Special Concern to Officials
Health officials have been concerned about teens using e-cigarettes long before the emergence of this mysterious lung illness. The National Youth Tobacco Survey reported an “alarming” increase in the use of these devices among middle school and high school students in 2018:
- Among high schoolers, vaping was up 78%
- Among middle schoolers, it increased 48%
- 17% said they use e-cigarettes because they believe them to be less harmful than conventional cigarettes
- Teens find e-cigarettes appealing because the devices have appealing flavors such as mint, candy, or fruit. 31% of teens polled by the American Cancer Association said they vape because of the flavors.
Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical that is not good for anyone’s health, but is particularly worrisome for teens. The substance can impede brain development throughout the early 20’s. Nicotine can harm the brain in the areas that control attention, learning, mood, and impulse control.
Long Term Effects Unknown
The truth is, scientists are still learning about the long term effects of e-cigarette use. Vapes are relatively new technology compared to conventional cigarettes, which are known to be bad for your health.
E-cigarettes are largely, and legally, unregulated by the FDA. This is alarming when you consider that there are no regulations about what manufacturers put inside vape pods. The risk to consumers could be astronomical. Scientists have already identified carcinogens and toxins in vape cartridges that are not listed in the ingredients. Still, FDA regulation of these products is on hold. Electronic cigarette manufacturers asked for more time, and the agency granted it.
The CDC says the ingredients in vape liquid may be safe to eat, but not safe to inhale because substances are processed differently in the lungs than in the digestive system. In the meantime, Americans are dying from vaping related illness.
What Can Parents Do to Keep Teens from Vaping?
Unfortunately for parents, teens are exposed to ads for vaping on a daily basis. Many of these ads include marketing that entices them to try it and offers options to hide it from parents or teachers.
There is also the issue of marketing e-cigarettes as safe. Popular vape brand JUUL is under fire for illegally marketing their products to teens as “safe” or “healthier,” Their marketing tactics have not been approved by the FDA.
So, as a parent, what can you do? The CDC offers the following tips:
- Talk to your teens about vaping. Be real with them about the dangers and risks of inhaling chemicals and nicotine.
- Show your teen reports of vaping related illness and the impact it has on victims.
- Set a good example. As an adult role model, do not use tobacco products of any kind.
- Talk to your teen’s teacher and school administrators about your concerns related to vaping. Be an advocate for your teen.
If your teen has become one of the many people sick from vaping related illness, get medical attention right away. Next, call Drug and Device Watch. We know that vape companies have illegally marketed their products. We also know that there are unregulated chemicals and toxins in vape pods.
As a consumer and parent, you certainly don’t have to stand by – you can take action. Drug and Device Watch can help you understand and protect your legal rights. Consult with one of our JUUL addiction attorneys by calling 1-888-458-6825. You can also request a free consultation by filling out our online form.