Do you remember when passengers used to be able to smoke on an airplane? Or when you’d go into a restaurant, and the host would ask if you wanted to sit in the smoking or non-smoking section? The passage of modern public non-smoking laws eliminated exposure to smoking for many of us and helped to minimize exposure to the deadly, addictive products by children and teens.
And then, vaping hit the scene.
Over the past five years, e-cigarettes and vaping devices have seemingly been popping up everywhere, touted by their producers and users as safer alternatives to cigarette smoking. Now, the latest research is revealing that what we thought we knew about vaping may be wrong and that these devices—which are being heavily marketed to teens—may be more dangerous than any of us could have realized.
Vaping vs. E-Cigarettes—What’s the Difference?
A vaporizer (vape) is any device that heats and aerosolizes a juice or liquid solution so that the user can inhale it. Vapes can be used to smoke marijuana. An electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) is a kind of vape that uses a nicotine-based solution.
Vaping-Related Illnesses and Deaths
As of October 2019, 26 vaping-related deaths have been confirmed in 21 different states, and 1,299 cases of severe lung illness associated with e-cigarettes have been reported across the country. The statistics are staggering, considering that the first e-cigarette only appeared in the U.S. in 2007. Possibly even more shocking is the fact that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that the rate of vaping among U.S. high school students rose from 1.5 percent to 20.8 percent from 2011 to 2018.
Researchers are still working to understand the cause of vaping-related illnesses. However, what we believe we know today is that the liquid solutions used within vaporizers pose inherent health risks. They include particles associated with cancer and cardiopulmonary toxicity, such as Formaldehyde, an industrial-strength disinfectant, and fungicide used in embalming processes. E-cigarettes pose additional risks due to their inclusion of nicotine, a known highly addictive substance.
The Current Vaping Crisis
Over the past few months, the media has inundated consumers with reports of a vaping crisis in the country. The Wall Street Journal reports that the crisis began in the summer of 2019. During this time, a Mid-West hospital identified six otherwise healthy teenage patients admitted around the same time as one another who presented with similar symptoms: chest pain, shortness of breath, and fatigue. What they all also had in common was vaping. The immediate research that followed produced an official named illness: E-cigarette, or Vaping Product Use Associated Lung Injury (EVALI).
Among the patients recently diagnosed with EVALI, their symptoms include cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, gastrointestinal symptoms including diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting, chills, weight loss, and fever. A significant number of patients admitted to hospital admit using vaping products that contain THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. This insight has led researchers to determine that while all the chemicals responsible for EVALI are still unknown, THC-containing products are a factor in the illness.
If you or a loved one have become addicted to vaping or e-cigarette devices, now is the time to get help. Much is still unknown about the risks and dangers of these devices, but what is known is that they are not harmless alternatives to cigarettes. Talk to your doctor or a professional substance abuse addiction recovery specialist today about available options to help you break your dependence on vaping products, and reclaim a healthy outlook for your future.