Vaping: The Health Crisis Affecting Our Teens

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Our teens are in crisis. Over the last several weeks the number of teens reporting respiratory illnesses related to a new craze called “vaping” has sky-rocketed. In fact, as of last night, “the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), state and local health departments, and other clinical and public health partners are investigating the multistate outbreak of lung disease associated with e-cigarette products.” This is because there are over 380 reported cases of e-cigarette related lung illnesses across 36 states, along with the sixth confirmed death. While the most recent death was of a fifty year old woman, the first cases of illness and death were in Illinois effecting youth and young adults between the ages of 17-38.

When the fifth person died in California, the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health issued a press release cautioning residents to the dangers of e-cigarettes. Dr. Steven Dubinett, Associate Vice Chancellor of UCLA and Chief of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, counseled in the press release that, “The increasing cases of severe pulmonary illnesses associated with vaping both nationwide and locally in Los Angeles County are alarming and underscores how much we still don’t know about the extent of harm that vaping can cause. We join Public Health, the medical community, and other health professionals in warning residents about the use of these devices and the need for a concerted effort to address this outbreak.”

A Potential Ban on E-Cigarettes

This epidemic has spread so quickly and affected so many that the CDC explicitly recommends that “youth and young adults should not use e-cigarettes.” The threat is of great concern even to President Trump whose youngest son Barron is only 13. Wanting to shield him from vaping and its dangerous health effects, President Trump met with the government’s top health officials on Wednesday, September 11. According to The New York Times “The White House and the F.D.A have faced mounting pressure from lawmakers, public health officials, parents and educators, who have grown alarmed by the popularity of vaping among teenagers but have felt powerless to keep e-cigarettes away from students and out of schools.”

Such has caused many leaders to begin considering a total ban on the product. A total ban of e-cigarettes has already taken place at the state level with Michigan being the first to ban the product last week causing other states like New York, Massachusetts, and California to seriously consider following suit.

What is Vaping?

According to Dr. Linda Richter, “vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the aerosol, often referred to as vapor, which is produced by an e-cigarette or similar device.” An aerosol is comprised of particles that are released into the air as a fine spray made up of both liquid and gas. Vaping is addictive because it deposits nicotine into the body. But negative effects of vaping are not restricted to the lungs. Nicotine also has the ability to chemically alter the development of the brain.

Herbert Gilbert created the e-cigarette in 1963 as a solution to tobacco. In fact, a recent study published by The New England Journal of Medicine suggests that while e-cigarettes have been marketed as a means to help ween individuals off of traditional smoking, “the evidence regarding its effectiveness is limited.” In other words, although e-cigarettes may be slightly healthier than regular cigarettes they bring with them their own set of new problems for users.

The Teen Craze

What makes vaping and the sale of e-cigarettes problematic for many is that it appears as though they are being marketed specifically to teens and young adults “with flavor options such as cotton candy, cupcake, and tutti-frutti.” In fact, Dr. Robert H. Schmerling, faculty editor for Harvard Health Publishing a journal published by the Harvard Medical School, cites that “one survey found that about 80% of middle school students had seen ads for e-cigarettes.” Furthermore, a survey taken in 2018 by the CDC shows that more than 60% of students will try vaping by the time they reach the 12th grade with 35% of 12th graders having already tried vaping.

Side Effects

While Nicotine is a known ingredient that most are worried about. There are other more dangerous ingredients to e-cigarettes that most do not know about. According to Barbara Calkins in her article “Teen Vaping: An Epidemic with Unknown Consequences,” “the flavoring chemical found in many e-liquids has been linked to lung disease and damage, with the aerosols entering the user’s lungs and leaving chemical residue behind.” She continues to explain that, “Lungs are only equipped to receive oxygen so anything other than oxygen is a detriment to them.”

Such elements within e-cigarettes has caused teens like Maddie Nelson to develop what doctors are calling “acute eosinophilic pneumonia.” According to the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center “Idiopathic acute eosinophilic pneumonia (IAEP) is characterized by the rapid accumulation of eosinophils in the lungs.” This kind of pneumonia, directly linked to vaping, took a relatively healthy teen like Maddie from a serious condition to near fatal in a matter of minutes. In fact, they had to place her in a coma in order to save her life. All due to vaping everyday for three years.

Talk to Your Teens and Young Adults

With this craze taking so many out so quickly, the best way you can save your child’s life is by talking to them. Don’t try to pretend like they have never heard of vaping, or have never been presented with the opportunity. Research is showing that kids in middle school are being introduced to it so that by the time they’re in high school they’re already using. Take the time to sit with your kids and talk about this vaping epidemic. Share with them the ways it’s negatively effecting the lives of young people across the country. Because there are no real federal restrictions or bans on e-cigarettes you can’t completely shield them from vaping. But it’s better they learn about it from you accompanied by an explanation of the side effects, than to hear about it from a peer accompanied by an explanation of the cool colors and flavors.

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