The effects have turned deadly; demand action on vaping

August 29, 2019 | by Aaron Weiner, Ph.D.
Categories: Healthy Driven Minds

As I write this, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released that 193 people across 22 states have been admitted to hospitals with a yet-unidentified severe respiratory illness, where our only clue is that it’s in some way related to vaping. One individual from Illinois has actually died — and all we know at this point is that the person was between 18-37 years old and suffered from vaping-related respiratory distress.

This should scare you. It scares me.

That said, this current spike in hospital admissions should not surprise us. Back in January, I published a Healthy Driven Blog about vaping, including the information we currently know about vaping and health:

  • Vapor aerosol, both first- and second-hand, from e-cigarettes contains numerous toxic substances as well as heavy metals.
  • The chemicals in e-cigarette vapor causes DNA damage and mutagenesis. This is the biological process that leads to cancer.
  • Vaping nicotine is addictive. Studies have shown that kids who vape are also more likely to smoke cigarettes, and when they do, those kids smoke more than they otherwise would.
  • Accidental contact with e-liquid on your skin can cause serious negative health effects, including seizures. Accidental ingestion can result in death.

What wasn’t highlighted is another key research finding: the lack of regulation in the vaping market has led to inaccurate labeling and a wide range of uncontrolled products. The toxins and carcinogens in vape aerosol vary among vaping devices and vape liquids. In other words, you really have no idea what chemicals you’re putting in your lungs when you vape, and you don’t know the extent of the damage those chemicals will cause.

Now it seems that certain vape products contain chemicals that are causing severe breathing problems after short-term use. 

Which products, and which chemicals? We still don’t know.

What is being done about this?

While vaping is now very much on the radar of the FDA and CDC, progress has remained slow in controlling the vaping industry. There have been some victories, however, such as San Francisco banning vaping sales outright, and other cities considering bans on certain flavors of vaping liquid. Controlling vaping flavors is crucial, as up to 85 percent of kids who vape use these flavors, which are often marketed and designed to appeal to a youthful demographic (e.g., candy, fruit, breakfast cereal, etc.).

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin has been one of the most vocal political leaders in pressuring the FDA to work more quickly to address the vaping epidemic. He was the primary sponsor of a bill introduced to the Senate in March, the SAFE Kids Act (S.655), which would strongly regulate vaping flavors. At this point, this bill is still in a Senate sub-committee and has not yet made it to the floor for a vote.

Any progress on this front faces opposition. Recently the Vapor Technology Association filed a lawsuit against the FDA, protesting that the timetable to submit all vaping products for official safety review by May 2020 was too soon. JUUL Labs, who currently owns approximately 75 percent of the vaping market, also recently made news for allegedly telling ninth graders that vaping was “perfectly safe,” and spending over $1 million dollars in three months on lobbying lawmakers in Washington DC.

What can I do about this?

The most powerful tool we have in this battle is our voice. If you are a parent, it’s imperative that you speak to your children about the dangers of vaping. The current wave of hospitalizations and the local vaping-related death are tragic, but they can also be a powerful deterrent for young minds that may trouble grasping the idea of cumulative consequences or long-term harm. Share the truth with your kids, and use whatever platform you have to talk about the importance of making healthy choices.

Whether you’re a parent or not, now is the time to reach out to your elected officials, both at the state and federal level. Our federal representatives can continue to put pressure on the FDA to act, and our state legislators have the ability to limit the sale of flavors within our borders. Together, we can make a difference!

If you or a member of your family is struggling with an addiction issue, please reach out to us at Linden Oaks Behavioral Health. We provide free behavioral health assessments, and will connect you to resources, with us or otherwise. Nobody, and no family, should have to feel alone when trying to fight addiction. To get in touch with our assessment center, give us a call at 630-305-5027.

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