The Center for Disease Control has confirmed 33 deaths among 1,479 lung injuries associated with the use of e-cigarettes. The CDC has concluded that products containing THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana, are a main culprit and should be avoided. THC-containing products bought off the street or obtained from friends, family and illegal dealers are particularly dangerous.
However, because the cause of the lung illness from vaping remains unclear, the CDC has stated that the only way to assure that you are not at risk while the investigation continues is to consider refraining from use of all e-cigarette, or vaping, products. Victims are largely male and young. About four out of five people afflicted are younger than 35 years old. However, those who have died tend to be older, with a median age of 44.
Federal and state health officials are still studying the illnesses. The CDC said Thursday that it is widening its lab testing — part of an effort to look for harmful chemicals across a “continuum” — from the liquid in e-cigarettes to the vapor they emit into patients’ bodies, said Cassie Brailer, a spokeswoman at the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
Newer tests, for which the CDC says it already has samples, will help the agency look for substances such as vitamin E acetate, a chemical found in marijuana products that’s drawn investigators’ scrutiny and can be dangerous to inhale. Cheaper than THC oil, vitamin E acetate is often added to vape cartridges, industry experts say.
According to Michael Blaha, M.D., M.P.H., director of clinical research at the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease:
1. Vaping is still bad for your health:
Nicotine is the primary agent in both regular cigarettes and e-cigarettes, and it is highly addictive. It causes you to crave a smoke and suffer withdrawal symptoms if you ignore the craving. Nicotine is also a toxic substance. It raises your blood pressure and spikes your adrenaline, which increases your heart rate and the likelihood of having a heart attack.
2. Electronic cigarettes are just as addictive as traditional ones:
Both e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes contain nicotine, which research suggests may be as addictive as heroin and cocaine. What’s worse, says Blaha, many e-cigarette users get even more nicotine than they would from a tobacco product — you can buy extra- strength cartridges, which have a higher concentration of nicotine, or you can increase the e-cigarette’s voltage to get a greater hit of the substance.
3. Electronic cigarettes are not the best smoking cessation tool:
Although they’ve been marketed as an aid to help you quit smoking, e-cigarettes have not received Food and Drug Administration approval as smoking cessation devices. A recent study found that most people who intended to use e-cigarettes to kick the nicotine habit ended up continuing to smoke both traditional and e-cigarettes.
4. A new generation is getting hooked on nicotine:
Among youth, e-cigarettes are more popular than any traditional tobacco product. In 2015, the U.S. surgeon general reported that e-cigarette use among high school students had increased by 900 percent, and 40 percent of young e-cigarette users had never smoked regular tobacco.
According to Blaha, there are three reasons e-cigarettes may be particularly enticing to young people. First, many teens believe that vaping is less harmful than smoking. Second, e-cigarettes have a lower per-use cost than traditional cigarettes. Finally, vape cartridges are often formulated with flavorings such as apple pie and watermelon that appeal to younger users.
Both youths and adults find the lack of smoke appealing. With no smell, e-cigarettes reduce the stigma of smoking.
“What I find most concerning about the rise of vaping is that people who would’ve never smoked otherwise, especially youth, are taking up the habit,” says Blaha. “It’s one thing if you convert from cigarette smoking to vaping. It’s quite another thing to start up nicotine use with vaping. And, it often leads to using traditional tobacco products down the road.”
“5 Vaping Facts You Need to Know,” https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/5-truths-you-need-to-know-about-vaping; Knowles, Hanna, “As Vaping-Linked Deaths Rise to 33, Officials are Still Seeking Answers,” The Washington Post (October 27, 2019). https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2019/10/17/vaping-linked-deaths-rise-officials-expand-lab-testing-cdc-says/.
If you are a victim of E-cigarettes (“vaping”), please give us a call.