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Vaping: A Stubborn Trend and Epidemic

Tuesday, August 13, 2019 3:19 PM

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently monitoring the incidents of hospitalizations, breathing problems, seizures and the link to e-cigarette use (vaping). At the beginning of August, 14 teens and young adults were hospitalized in Wisconsin and Illinois for breathing problems linked to vaping.


Previously, in April, the FDA received 35 reports of seizures related to vaping, particularly among younger users. Since then, there have been 92 new reports, but as of currently, there isn’t any clear pattern across the cases.

In addition to seizures, in some cases, fainting or tremors were reported as well. With dozens of new accounts, the FDA suspects the seizures or convulsions may be caused by the potential side effects of nicotine toxicity.

However, at this time, the FDA does not have enough information to determine if e-cigarettes are the sole causes of these reported incidents.

Vaping 101:  

E-cigarettes are widely used by previous smokers who want to transition away from smoking tobacco products and teens who want to avoid the stigma of using regular tobacco products. Vaping devices go by a number of names: vape pens, pod mods, tanks, e-hookahs and e-cigarettes, to name a few. 

Here are some more facts to consider about vaping today, approved by Christopher J. Winslow, MD, Pulmonary/Critical Care:

E-cigarettes are more popular than tobacco products. In 2015, the U.S. Surgeon General reported that e-cigarette use among high school students had increased by 900 percent, and 40 percent of young e-cigarette users had never smoked regular tobacco. Vaping is appealing to the younger generation of smokers because it doesn’t smell, which reduces the stigma of smoking. Today, vaping is officially declared an epidemic in the U.S. by the Surgeon General.

Vaping exposes you to fewer chemicals. The FDA lists 93 harmful or potentially harmful chemicals found in regular cigarettes. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) describes cigarettes as having more than 7,000 chemicals in them, many of which are toxic. True, there are fewer chemicals in e-cigarettes, but they still contain heated nicotine in the form of water vapor, which is highly addictive. Liquids used in vaping are filled with flavoring agents and other chemicals – some of which we still do not know the long-term effects.

Vaping is addictive. E-cigarettes still contain nicotine and can cause cravings and withdrawal symptoms just like normal tobacco products. Nicotine raises blood pressure and heart rate, which can lead to a risk of a heart attack. In some cases, e-cigarette users are consuming more nicotine than they would in a normal cigarette. Extra-strength cartridges have a higher concentration of nicotine and may lead to toxicity. 

Nicotine impairs development. While many youths are gravitating to vaping, there’s evidence that shows nicotine’s effect on the adolescent brain can be damaging to their development. Studies have shown that nicotine can interfere with memory and attention processing.

When does it require a trip to the hospital? If you’re experiencing shortness of breath, fatigue or chest pain, increased coughing or wheezing, it’s worth taking a visit to your doctor or the ER depending on your symptoms.

It's never too early to talk to your kids or someone you may know about nicotine use. Give your loved one's space to ask questions. The bottom line is e-cigarettes and vaping come with many unknown health concerns, which are still under investigation.