• Article
  • September 17, 2019

The Next Epidemic: Vaping

A multi-state outbreak of lung disease heightens urgency to address possible health effects related to e-cigarette use. 

digital technology

A closer look at vaping

37%
of 12th graders report vaping in the last 12 months
10%
of 8th graders report vaping in the last 12 months
26%
of 12th graders believe they are vaping “just flavoring”
Sources: National Institute on Drug Abuse; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

An outbreak of lung disease associated with e-cigarettes or vaping prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to investigate. As of Sept. 12, the CDC confirmed six deaths and 380 cases of lung illness reported from 36 states and one U.S. territory. All reported cases have a history of e-cigarette product use or vaping. The CDC released interim recommendations for health care providers, health departments and the public.

As CHT previously reported, data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse suggests the number of adolescents and teens who use e-cigarettes is on the rise. Among high school students, 37% of seniors have tried vaping, up from less than 28% in 2017. And the CDC found a 78% increase in e-cigarette use by teens in just one year.

Researchers say there is an urgent need for adolescents to understand the risks of vaping. A study in Pediatrics indicates e-cigarette users are vaping a number of cancer-causing, volatile organic compounds, including propylene oxide, acrylamide, acrylonitrile and crotonaldehyde.

"Teenagers need to be warned the vapor produced by e-cigarettes is not harmless water vapor, but actually contains some of the same toxic chemicals found in smoke from traditional cigarettes," says Mark L. Rubinstein, M.D., the study's lead author and adolescent medicine specialist at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital in San Francisco. The research also shows that e-cigarette use by high school students was a significant predictor that they would go on to smoke traditional cigarettes.

Little is known about the health effects of e-cigarettes. Researchers have linked the flavoring chemical found in e-cigarette liquids to lung disease and damage—as the aerosols enter the user's lungs, they leave residue behind. A Harvard University study found that more than 75% of flavored e-cigarettes contained chemicals linked to severe respiratory disease.

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