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STOP Vaping Now!

vape_shutterstock_1481905994By Deirdre Imus, 11-12-2019
Over the last two months, a national tragedy and health emergency has been unfolding in this country. As of this week, the CDC reported that 37 people have died and nearly 1,900 have been sickened as a result of using vaping devices filled with either nicotine or THC, the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects. 

For reasons that remain largely mysterious, use of these vaping devices, also known as e-cigarettes, has caused people to develop symptoms that can mimic an infection or pneumonia. In reality, the lung damage associated with this vaping disease more closely resembles what would happen to the lungs of somebody who had been exposed to toxic chemicals. Experts have suggested a thickening agent called vitamin E acetate could explain some of the lung inflammation in people who have used THC cartridges, but little else is known about what is causing this devastating lung damage to occur. 

We all know and have known for decades that smoking cigarettes, or using any form of tobacco, is not good for us. It can damage nearly every part of the body, including and especially the lungs.  It is one of the worst, if not the worst, thing you can do. But when e-cigarettes first entered the market in the U.S. a little over a decade ago, we knew very little about these devices, and what they could do to us. And until recently, we’ve remained more or less in the dark.

Research has been slow to come on the specific health effects of using vaping devices, whether for nicotine or THC.  Studies have suggested links to cancer, as well as deleterious effects of nicotine on developing brains in younger users. However, we do know that around 37 percent of high school seniors reported vaping in 2018, up from 28 percent the year before.  We also know that teens who vape are more likely to begin smoking cigarettes, and that the companies manufacturing these devices are marketing them specifically to kids as being safer alternatives to traditional cigarettes. 

E-cigarettes have also been touted (usually by the companies making them) as an effective method for people who want to quit smoking altogether, but the proof is not in the pudding, and the FDA has not approved e-cigarettes for this purpose.  

Several lawmakers have pushed to end these deceptive practices, and some state officials have called for or have banned the sale of e-cigarettes and other vaporizing products. But this does not address the problem that vaping devices are ubiquitous. They are everywhere and most alarmingly, they are in the hands of children. And even if young people are not using these products themselves, they are surely being exposed to the vapor when a friend or family member indulges.  In a disturbing twist of fate, the vaping lung disease has even scared people back into smoking traditional cigarettes!

Vaping devices started as a lie (they’re safer than cigarettes! they’ll help you quit!) and the lying has only continued. The companies making e-cigarettes have been deceptive from the start, and now nearly 2,000 people are acutely ill as a result.  One of the most effective ways to avoid any of the negative consequences of vaping is to avoid these devices in the first place. Young people who are particularly vulnerable when it comes to starting to vape, and it is our job - as parents, teachers, aunts, uncles, grandparents - to have open and honest conversations with them about the grave threats these devices pose to their health.

To combat dishonest, misleading, irresponsible propaganda from the tobacco industry on vaping, it is crucial to be as informed as possible. Below is the documentary VAPE by Christopher Productions, it  is important viewing for anyone concerned about the vaping crisis, confused about the array of products, and interested in how we got to this point. 

 

 

What else can worried parents do?

U.S. News & World Report published a helpful guide last month which includes the following suggestions:

  • Open up the lines of communication with your child, and be extremely honest about the health risks of vaping BEFORE they ever pick up one of these devices
  • Familiarize yourself with the products so you can understand what kids are talking about - and what to look for (many e-cigarettes are inconspicuous, and the vapor that is exhaled is difficult to detect)
  • Help your teen quit by providing support yourself, or guiding them to call a free quit line, which can provide telephone-based tobacco cessation services
  • Call the National Cancer Institute’s quit line number at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669) or visit Smokefree.gov.
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