Health - Tori Carr

Is the Buzz Worth It? Fatalities Linked to Vaping

        People have been smoking tobacco for thousands of years. It can severely damage the lungs, heart, and blood vessels, shortens lives by 12 years for men and 11 years for women, and kills more people in the United States than guns, alcohol, HIV, illegal drugs, and car accidents all together, according to the American Cancer Society

        In 1964, nearly half of people in the United States smoked cigarettes, according to NBC News. The CDC released a report that the number of current smokers dropped drastically to 20.9% in 2005 and even more in 2017 to a low of 14.0%. It seems that Americans began to understand how dangerous smoking was as more health risks were released and as millions of people died from smoking related illnesses over the course of decades. Could new information about vaping do the same?

        Over the course of the summer of 2019, there were 193 cases of “a mysterious, vaping-related respiratory illness” as of August 24,  according to Refinery 29. Since this date, 612 more people have contracted some sort of respiratory illness, which has caused the total to rise to 805 cases. This number was reported by the CDC September 27, and is expected to be “hundreds higher” in the coming weeks, according to principal deputy director of the CDC, Dr. Anne Schuchat.

        Patients who have contracted the illness most commonly developed trouble breathing, fatigue, coughing, chest pain, nausea, abdominal pain, fever, and vomiting. According to Refinery29, “the symptoms exhibited by patients are consistent with chemical inhalation injuries.” However, not much more is known about what is causing this illness, and why it has suddenly spreadly so quickly. The reason it is difficult for researchers and doctors to find a cause is because vaping is a fast growing industry with little information known about it. 

        Vaping refers to electronically smoking liquid THC, tetrahydrocannabinol, a chemical in marijuana, or nicotine. Many patients reported of vaping both substances, but it is unknown if the illness is caused by, “marijuana-type products, e-cigarettes, or some type of street concoction that was vaped, or whether a contaminant or defective device,” according to the New York Times. NBC News states that The Food and     Drug Administration “tested 120 product samples, and so far has been unable to identify any one brand, ingredient or substance that could explain the illness.”

        A new report from New York State Department of Health, blames vitamin E, found in many cannabis vaping cartridges, to be a possible culprit of the mysterious vaping illness; however the FDA stated “more information is needed to better understand whether there’s a relationship between any specific products or substances and the reported illnesses.”

        Many students at SSSAS are well conversed in the conversation about vaping, both THC and nicotine. Four upperclassmen shared their opinions on the new illness and how it has affected them. 

        All students expressed concern about the possibility of them contracting the illness from vaping. One student explained “I’m kind of concerned about people that do it too often because of all the news that’s coming out, but at the same time I don’t think it’s the biggest issue and I don’t think that it’s something kids should be too freaked out about because there are so many other things that are so much worse that people are doing.” 

        Another disclosed that they were concerned with the health effects, and “It probably kills you. It’s probably bad for you. I don’t get anything out of it, but I do it.” They continued to say “I tell myself that people do it more than me and they’re the ones who are going to die first and when they start dying I’ll chill.” 

Three of the interviewees have or still vape and explained how it affects their social lives. One student explained that they used to Juul frequently on their own, but have slowed due to learning about the health risks. They explained that they did not think it was a part of their social life, and “if you were going to a part or something social, it would be more about alcohol or something like that and not Juuling. It’s less social now, it’s something you do by yourself.”

        Another student admitted to vaping nicotine as well as cannabis products, however they would never do it on their own. “It’s more of a social thing. I don’t get a buzz off of it; that’s not what I need from it. I only like doing it while I’m around people because when I do it by myself [I feel like] I’m becoming dependent.” However they believe, “people are still doing it. I don’t think people care really. I think they see it and are like ‘it won’t happen to me.’ 

        The last student interviewed explained that they used to vape frequently, but is attempting to cut down. They still believe it vaping plays a big part in their social life, but says, “I don’t feel a necessity, but a lot of people around me do it.” They believe, “a lot of people have been throwing their stuff away which is good.”

        The fourth student interviewed has never vaped before, and explained, “I don’t Juul, I actually have never done it in my life, but I’ve thought about it. I’m a pretty competitive swimmer... I don’t want my lung capacity to be compromised at this point in my life because I depend on it so heavily.”

        There have been several efforts by companies and the government to limit the use of e-cigarettes recently. President Trump’s administration announced a proposed ban on the sale of flavored vaping products that some critics believe are to blame for the increase of vaping among teenagers. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker banned all vaping products for four months, Rhode Island announced a temporary ban on the sale of flavored vaping products, and New York and Michigan have permanently banned the sale of flavored e-cigarettes aside from tobacco and menthol flavors. 

        Kevin Burns, CEO of Juul, one of the most popular e-cigarette companies, stepped down on September 25 due to “growing global outrage and regulatory scrutiny over its products,” according to Slate. Juul also announced that it will support President Trump’s ban on flavored vaping products and has stopped all advertising of the company’s products.