First it was: “Vaping is a safer and healthier alternative to smoking.” Now, it’s: “Vaping leads to lung disease and death.” The dramatic change of view on vaping in the past year has caught people off guard and left many feeling that the truth about vaping is shrouded in a cloud of smoke, or better yet, vapor.
Christine Glissmann, the Prevention Education Coordinator at the University of Redlands, has been researching vaping statistics and effects. She provides trainings about smoking and vaping for student athletes, trying to educate them about the health risks of inhaling anything other than air.
The CDC has called the recent rise in e-cigarette use an “outbreak,” but Glissmann explained that it may not be quite as dangerous as people think. In the United States, the CDC has confirmed twenty-six deaths and 1,299 lung-injuries from vaping as of October 8th, 2019. For comparison, about 480,000 people die annually in the United States from smoking cigarettes.
According to Glissman, the biggest reason why the CDC is so concerned is because “the majority of the cases of deaths have been the bootleg sort of version of these products.” This means that people, especially young teenagers, are buying illegal and unregulated vape juices, mods, and Juuls, which puts them at a greater risk for inhaling dangerous chemicals. In fact, in the U.S. youth are more likely to vape than adults, another reason why everyone including the Trump Administration is trying to ban flavored vape juices, which are targeted toward teens and pre-teens.
During her presentation, Glissman asked “When you … walk into any gas stations, where do you see a lot of like cigarettes and vaping stuff?” After a few people answered, “By the counter,” Glissmann followed up with another question: “What else is by the counter?”
The answer was candy and gum. The things that stores normally target toward children are up near the e-cigarettes, which draws a child’s attention to these vaping products from a young age.
Of course, the concerns are founded in truth, and they aren’t all just about teenagers. Vaping has affected adults as well. Many different vaping products contain high levels of either THC or Nicotine, both addictive drugs. Studies have shown that Nicotine is just as addictive as heroin. This can leave people of any age dependent on the drugs, much like long-time smokers are hooked on cigarettes. E-cigarette juices do contain fewer chemicals than normal cigarettes, and they also produce no tar in the lungs. However, tests done on vapors have found cancer-causing chemicals, heavy metals, including lead and nickel, and volatile organic compounds. Glismann explained that because vaping doesn’t burn the throat like smoking, people can inhale the vapor for longer periods of time, allowing more of these toxins into the body.
E-cigarette juices also contain vitamin E acetate, which, when heated, experts believe to be responsible for the majority of deaths and lung injuries from vaping. Symptoms of lung issues caused by vaping include cough, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, fever, and weight loss.
Although Glissmann encouraged students, especially athletes, to refrain from vaping and smoking, she acknowledged that it still happens on campus. In a survey conducted of U of R students, results suggested that about 12.3% of students vape. Glissman offered suggestions to keep those who vape safer. She encouraged buying legal products from verified vendors and keeping a low heat on vaping devices. The higher the heat, the more dangerous the chemicals in vape juice become, Glissmann explained.
By May of 2020, all vaping products will be federally approved before hitting the markets. The Trump Administration says it has recently become concerned with the spike in deaths, so it is also possible that flavored vape juices will be banned soon in an effort to stop younger teenagers and middle schoolers from trying to vape. Although the jury is still out on vaping, it still can be dangerous, and avoiding it will only lead to a lifetime of healthier lungs.
Photograph by TBEC Review, unaltered, under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.