ARTICLE SUMMARY: An increase in teen usage has many parents, researchers, and educators concerned about how future generations will handle vaping. Heightened efforts have been made recently to combat this “epidemic.”
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
- Safe or Not?
- How E-Cigs Work
- Injuries and Explosions
- Youth Prevention
- Is It Enough?
- Education vs. Ban
- Your Comments
The Not-So-Safe Alternative
Did you know that the first e-cigarette was patented in the 1960s? But the popularity of this device didn’t really kick off until the early 2000s. E-cigarettes have been marketed as a safer “alternative” for adults to kick their nicotine habit. But is vaping safe at all?
It can be hard to draw conclusions about e-cigarette devices when new research is coming out all the time. In addition, sometimes this information can be misleading or contradicting.
When compared to tobacco cigarettes, vaping does seem to be a healthier alternative. This is because e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco or as many carcinogens that traditional cigarettes have.
Additionally, e-cigarettes show to be less harmful to those who have mild to moderate cases of asthma and they emit less toxic second and third-hand smoke.
However, a new study by the American Physiological Association found that vape smoke may be more harmful to your lungs than smoking an actual cigarette. Further, the University of North Carolina recently found that even the smallest dose of propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin, two primary components of e-cigs, can expose users to high levels of toxins. Side effects of vaping include:
- Sore throat
… and new research show that the volatile organic compounds in e-cigarettes are carcinogenic. The more a user inhales, the more damage is done.
How Do E-Cigarettes Work?
The e-cigarette as we know it today was invented by Chinese pharmacist, Hon Lik. They work like a regular cigarettes, only the source of the heat is electronic. Plus, the heating “element” in e-cigarettes is an atomizer which is used to vaporize liquid. Basically, a battery powers the heating element and a sensor activates the heater when the user sucks on the device.
Most e-cigarettes contain:
- A mouthpiece
- Heating element
- Rechargeable battery
- Electronic circuits
The mouthpiece is a cartridge that holds the e-liquid, propylene glycol, also called vape “juice”; it is fixed in place to the end of a tube. Once the absorbent material dries out, the cartridge can either be replaced or refilled with another cartridge.
Injuries and Explosions
The lack of regulation in the vaping industry has caused many people to become injured by the battery devices that are used to charge vape pens. 80% of injuries occurred when the device was charging in a USB port. This problem stems from the fact that different USB ports put out different levels of voltage and current, which can cause the e-cig battery to overheat. As a result, a reaction called “thermal runaway” occurs.
The reaction can be devastating and even deadly.
The FDA has documented over 130 instances of e-cigarette explosions since these devices were brought onto the market in 2007. However, new research reports that these numbers might have been underestimated.
A new study conducted by Tobacco Control found that there are far more e-cigarette explosions and burn injuries in the United States than estimated in past reports. This study led by Dr. Matthew Rossheim in Mason’s Department of Global and Community Health used data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and found an estimated 2,035 emergency department visits from e-cigarette explosion and burn injuries from 2015 to 2017.
This number, in all likelihood, is an underestimate of total injuries…. since not all injured people report to emergency departments.” Injuries from these electronic devices have also been known to cause:
- Blast injuries
- Chemical burns
- Flame burns
- Injuries to the face, hand, and groin
Last month, a man died of a massive stroke after an e-cigarette exploded and tore through his carotid artery. According to CNN, William Brown of Fort Worth Texas, was sitting in his car outside a vape shop. He popped off the top of his vape pen and it exploded. “Brown was rushed to the hospital and his family told KTVT that he was put into a medically-induced coma and that x-rays showed that part of the e-cigarette was lodged in his throat.”
This tragic event comes just days after another man in his twenties in New York was reported to have serious burns after his E-cigarette exploded in his pocket. According to experts, 62 percent of e-cigarettes that explode do so while they are carried in a pocket. This scary percentage is still alarming to anyone who used the products.
Youth Prevention Efforts
Tobacco use among youth has dropped by 25 percent in less than a decade – but there is a catch. Studies have shown e-cig use among teens has increased by 900%. Data collected by the FDA shows that in 2017, 2.1 million middle school and high school students used e-cigarettes. Luckily, key findings from the 2017 National Youth Tobacco Survey shows that tobacco use decreased from 2011- 2017.
The Food and Drug Administration started to enforce regulations about e-cigarettes in 2016. The FDA has extended regulatory authority to cover all tobacco products. New efforts this year have been made by the FDA to protect youth from the dangers of e-cigarette and tobacco use. “The Real Cost” is a campaign that urges teens to “know the real cost of vaping.”
But, Is It Enough?
In March, the American Lung Association and other health partners filed a lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration to keep electronic cigarettes off the market. The lawsuit contends that the FDA allows marketing of candy flavored “juice” to appeal to young kids. Flavors include cookie dough, grape, cherry, and even Fruit Loops infused vapor. In fact, a new study from 2018 even found that exposure to flavoring additives in e cigarettes can potentially harm blood cell vessels in the heart.
The lawsuit claims that the FDA is not doing enough to educate the public on the harmful effects vaping and e-cigarettes cause to your lungs.
As general knowledge on the harmful effects of e-cigarettes grows, stricter regulations are being places and harsher penalties are being placed on tobacco companies with misleading information. Last month, the FDA issued a statement on their efforts to address the e-cigarette epidemic and curb youth tobacco use in the U.S.:
“We launched a multi-pronged Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan. We escalated enforcement against retailers who illegally sell ENDS products to minors. We partnered with the Federal Trade Commission to target e-liquid manufacturers whose products used misleading, kid-appealing imagery that mimicked juice boxes, lollipops, and other foods. We worked with eBay to remove listings for these products on their websites. We launched innovative campaigns, including “The Real Cost” Youth E-Cigarette Prevention Campaign, to educate teens about the consequences of addiction to e-cigarettes.”
Still, the situation leaves parents confused about the best way forward. And is raises the question about the efficacy of a complete ban. Could making vaping illegal be the best way forward?
Education or Ban?
Increased awareness through media campaigns and more funding for studies has not only given us a clearer insight into the harmful effects of vaping, but it has allowed regulators to demand stricter laws on how big tobacco companies market their products. A smoke-free future might not be around the corner but progress is definitely being made to educate and inform the public on how to handle an e-cigarette epidemic.
Still, why not consider vaping materials “controlled substances”? Like synthetic marijuana and bath salts that came before …. e-cigarette companies knowingly sell to the under 18 demographic. Targeting under age users is the best way to a growing bottom line, as kids hooked on vaping become young people and adults hooked on vaping; in other words, clients for life.
However, legislative bans on vaping materials and paraphernalia just might be too close for comfort. Remember Big Tobacco? Well, the industry might just be too well-oiled at the moment…until parents and public health advocates call for change.
The question is: What do you think?
Is vaping really a problem? Do people use e-cigarettes in “epidemic” proportions? If so, what’s the way forward?
We welcome your comments. And we try to respond to all real life questions or feedback with a personal and prompt reply.