Photo from Wikipedia Commons, originally posted to Vaping360.com.
Only a few years ago, a new device was advertised to help people who were addicted to smoking. These so-called Juuls were created as a safer alternative to smoking, helping people to wean off the cigarette that caused so many health issues. What was unforeseen, though, was the creation of a new epidemic and problem plaguing children and adolescents: vaping.
Smoking has been known to cause severe health problems, from lung cancer to chronic bronchitis. Many studies have shown that smoking is very injurious to health and that it is best to quit as soon as possible. E-cigarettes were then created to help smokers quit. And it worked. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that smokers who begin to vape have lower returns to smoking and fewer nicotine cravings, and according to Public Health England, “95% of the harm comes from tobacco…and nicotine is relatively harmless.” If this is true, then how come the Center for Disease Control and Prevention identifies 18 people in the US who have died from vaping-related illnesses as of Oct. 1?
The general public began to agree that vaping is a “healthier product,” stating that tobacco was truly the reason for health problems, and inhaling water vapor is fine for health. This is when vaping began to increase in popularity. It is estimated by Monitoring the Future that 20% of high school youth have vaped at least once, far higher than smoking was in the past few decades. Juul, which owns 70% of the market, has lured teens into buying the product, though it is illegal to have under the age of 18, by advertising flavors and lower likelihood of addiction. So what is the problem?
Recently, doctors have been baffled by a series of mysterious illnesses, from which 18 people have died. According to a CDC investigation, symptoms of gasping for air, vomiting, and dizziness are often present. Some chest x-rays show extreme cloudiness, looking almost like chronic pneumonia. After testing for viruses, bacteria, and any other infectious disease, it was clear that this disease was something never seen before. Of the 18 people who died of this new disease, all had one thing in common: vaping.
Why are people dying from this seemingly harmless activity? Vape pods contain either nicotine or THC, an active component in marijuana, which is mixed with other solvents that dissolve and deliver the drugs to create a high. This mixture is a liquid, and it is heated to become a vapor that can be inhaled. Although the cause of the new disease is unknown, some theorize that it is caused by inhaling leftover oil droplets. One example is vitamin E oil, which is currently being investigated by the New York state health department, as reported by NPR.
Because vaping is relatively new, enough studies haven’t come out for the public to truly understand whether this is harmless or harmful. Through more research and rigorous analysis, we will be able to better assess the benefits of vaping and/or the dangers it poses to our health.