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The Dangers of Vaping

03-04-2020

The vaping landscape is changing quickly and, in many cases, becoming more dangerous—especially for youth and their families. That’s why Frederick Health has gathered the latest information to arm you with the facts and hazards associated with vapes, also known as e-cigarettes.

Fact #1: Many people think vaping is a less-serious alternative to smoking cigarettes, but the bottom line is that vaping is still harmful.

One of the most confusing aspects of vaping is the wide variety of products on the market—and therefore, the large number and combinations of different chemicals within them. We’re going to use the terms vapes and e-cigarettes interchangeably.

The use of e-cigarettes is often referred to as “vaping” because many people believe these products create a vapor, which is then inhaled. But in fact, e-cigarettes produce an aerosol made up of tiny particles, not vapor.

It’s widely believed that e-cigarettes expose users to fewer harmful chemicals than smoked cigarettes. But health experts say smokers who switch to e-cigarettes are still exposing themselves to potentially serious health risks.

Fact #2: Vaping is considered a health epidemic, especially among youth.

E-cigarettes have become the most commonly used tobacco product among U.S. youth (since 2014).

More than 5 million U.S. youth used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). This translates to more than 1 in 4 high school students and about 1 in 10 middle school students.

Fact #3: Some vapes and e-cigarettes are specifically designed to look like everyday products like flash drives and pens.

“Typical” e-cigarettes are designed with a refillable cartridge (holding the liquid or substance), an atomizer (a coil with a heating element that converts the liquid to aerosol), sensors, and a rechargeable lithium-ion battery.

But disposable e-cigarettes can look and feel like standard cigarettes that are smoked. And many e-cigarettes, especially under the brand name JUUL, are shaped like USB flash drives. The use of these products can go unnoticed in school classrooms and bathrooms because they look so similar to ordinary flash drives or pens.

Fact #4: Vapes contain many harmful substances including nicotine—and additional harmful substances go largely unregulated and undetermined.

The FDA does not currently require testing of all the substances in e-cigarettes. In fact, the CDC states that e-cigarette products are sometimes changed or modified and can have possibly harmful or illegal substances from unknown sources.

So, what do we know? Here are some facts about harmful substances that have been identified in e-cigarettes:

  • Nicotine can cause lung disease, heart disease, and cancer, according to the American Cancer Society
  • THC is associated with a wide range of health effects
  • Vitamin E acetate, when inhaled, may interfere with normal lung function
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches and nausea, and can damage the liver, kidney, and nervous system
  • Flavoring chemicals are linked to a lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans (popcorn lung)
  • Formaldehyde is a cancer-causing substance

Fact #5: Vaping harms brain development.

All JUUL-brand vapes, and most other e-cigarettes, contain nicotine. There is evidence that nicotine harms brain development in young people through the age of 25. Nicotine use among pregnant women may also cause premature births and low birthweight babies.

Fact #6: Vaping is causing a sharp rise in lung injuries requiring hospitalizations and even leading to deaths.

As of Feb. 4, 2020, the CDC reports that there have been 64 deaths and 2,758 hospitalizations nationwide due to what’s called EVALI (e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury).

In nearby Loudoun County, Va., a police officer recently sounded the alarm about EVALI on social media, writing: “Although the CDC and the FDA continue to work to identify the cause and no one compound or ingredient has emerged as the cause of these illnesses, many of the patients reported a history of using products containing THC. In Loudoun, THC vape cartridge products were recently uncovered by our detectives and were found to be 95 percent THC. This is well over 10 times more potent than a typical marijuana plant seized during my days as an agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration.”

Fact #7: Symptoms of vaping that cause harm to your body include coughing, trouble breathing, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, fever, or weight loss.

Fact #8: Vaping can cause poisoning.

The liquid in e-cigarettes, when swallowed, breathed, or absorbed through the skin or eyes, can cause poisoning. According to the CDC, about half of all calls to poison control centers for e-cigarettes are for children 5 years of age or younger.

Fact #9: E-cigarettes have exploded, caused fires and serious injuries, in some cases linked to defective batteries.

Fact #10: Vaping can lead to cigarette smoking and other health risks, but there are helpful resources available.

Vaping’s future health effects are not completely known. There is growing evidence that young people who use e-cigarettes may be more likely to smoke cigarettes in the future. Additionally, e-cigarettes can be used to deliver other drugs, including marijuana, and the vapor is known to contain cancer-causing chemicals.

Contact your healthcare professional if you, or a loved one, needs help quitting tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. Frederick Health offers a free, 6-week Freedom from Smoking program. Parents can reference the article, How to Talk with Your Kids about Vaping, from the American Lung Association.

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