As of November 1, thirty- seven people have lost their lives to vaping related illnesses, with the youngest among the deceased being 17 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Along with the death toll, there have been 1,88 lung injury cases associated with the use of e-cigarettes or vaping products that have been reported to the CDC from 49 states, the District of Columbia, and 1 United States territory.
Fueling the outbreak of illnesses are the illegal and black market vape products containing unregulated tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the psychoactive component in marijuana that gives off the high sensation. Young teens that buy vape products “off the street” are sometimes not even aware that they are buying counterfeit products. These products are often filled with pesticides and other harmful chemicals that cause major injury if inhaled.
“THC-based products were most often acquired from informal sources such as down the street from friends or from a dealer,” Jennifer Layden of the Illinois Department of Public Health said at a press briefing.
Six states in America have banned or implemented limitations on e-cigarettes including California, Michigan, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Washington. The Trump Administration has also announced a plan to place a ban on all youth-friendly flavors until the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) applications are complete and approved.
The FDA gained regulatory power over e-cigarettes in 2016. Many brands such as the market leader Juul, were originated before this date, therefore they were available for sale despite lacking FDA authorization. FDA has given e-cigarette manufacturers until May 2020 to apply for authorization. If they do not meet requirements and are deemed not “appropriate for the protection for the protection of public health,” then they can potentially be removed from the market and further sales would be banned.
Nicotine is another major ingredient in e-cigarettes and vaping. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance which causes a craving to smoke and withdrawal symptoms. In addition, it is extremely toxic, and can raise in blood pressure, adrenaline, heart rate, and the likelihood of having a heart attack.
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. Doctors claim that the increase in e-cigarette use amongst teenagers is because they are marketed directly towards the youth. Among this generation, e-cigarettes are more popular than any traditional tobacco product. Big brands such as Juul and Suorin produce vape cartridges with flavors such as watermelon, apple pie, sour patch, and bubblegum.
“What I find most concerning about the rise of vaping is that people who would have never smoked otherwise, especially youth, are taking up the habit. It’s one thing if you convert from cigarette smoking to vaping. It’s quite another thing to start up nicotine use with vaping. And, it often leads to using traditional tobacco products down the road,” Dr. Michael Blaha of John Hopkins said.