E-cigs: More Dangerous Than We Thought

By: Jessica Gustafson, PA-C

What are they?

E-cigs are also known as e-cigarettes, e-vaporizers, or electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS).  They have nicknames such as e-hookahs, hookah pens, vapes, vape pens, and mods.  The devices contain four common components:  a battery, a heating element, a mouthpiece, and a cartridge which contains a liquid solution.  The liquid solution or “e-juice” has differing amounts of various products including flavorings, humectants, nicotine, THC, and other chemicals.  Each inhalation activates the heating device which vaporizes the liquid in the cartridge, resulting in an aerosol or “vape.”

Who uses them?

E-cigs were initially marketed to cigarette smokers as a way to help stop smoking without giving up their nicotine addiction. Popularity grew quickly, however, due to the variety of flavored products and the sleek, high-tech design of the pens.  As of 2014, there were an astonishing 7,700 different flavors available and 460 vape brands selling products online. With heavy marketing of flavors such as vanilla and coconut, it is not surprising that use has become widespread in teenagers. Despite the legal age of 18 for e-cigs, the CDC reports that teen vaping has surged to more than 1 in 4 high school students.

What’s the risk?

In the last month, there were hundreds of reports of a new aggressive vaping-related lung illness that (at the time of this blog) has already killed more than 7 people and has been confirmed as a probable cause in more than 380 cases of lung disease. These illnesses are being investigated at both the state and federal levels by agencies such as the CDC. At this point, no single ingredient or product has yet been identified as the culprit, and the only commonality among the deaths seem to be that each person recently vaped.  Concurrently, there has also been an “uptick” in seizures reported by e-cigarette users in the last year.  At least 35 cases are being investigated which makes this an isolated health risk all on its own.

What can you do?

The best answer…immediately stop any and all use of vaping products.  Make an appointment with your doctor for evaluation.

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