Vaping Health Risks Are Real

A lot of controversy arose when Michigan’s Governor, Gretchen Whitmer, made Michigan the first state to outlaw flavored vaping products.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised people to avoid e-cigarettes while federal and state officials investigate a nationwide outbreak of severe respiratory illnesses associated with the use of e-cigarette, or vaping, products.

Governor Whitmer targeted flavored vaping products claiming flavors such as bubble gum and mango are targeting teens. There’s no denying that vaping has become extremely common among teens in America.

Since this isn’t a political forum, I’m not going to address whether or not states outlawing vaping products is overstepping our constitutional rights but I will address the health risks inherent with vaping products.

Federal and state officials have reported hundreds of total possible cases of pulmonary disease and several deaths that may be related to vaping. Patients’ symptoms ranged from cough, chest pain and shortness of breath to fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever, according to the CDC.

As part of their investigations, state health officials have sent samples of products to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for analysis. The FDA is evaluating these samples for THC (the high-inducing compound in marijuana), nicotine, Vitamin E acetate, and a range of other chemicals.

Last year, the U.S. Surgeon General’s office began the work of awareness when the nation’s doctor, Jerome Adams, issued a warning that vaping among youth has reached epidemic levels.

The numbers are startling. More than 3.6 million middle and high school students currently use e-cigarettes, according to the latest National Youth Tobacco Study. Another national study last year found that 11 percent of high school seniors, 8 percent of 10th-graders, and 3.5 percent of eighth-graders vaped with nicotine during a previous one month period. The worrying part? Young people think vaping is mostly harmless.

To understand vaping, it’s best to start on broad terms. To vape is to inhale vapor created from a liquid heated up inside a device. From there, things quickly get complicated. The devices have many names—vape pens, pod mods, tanks, electronic nicotine delivery devices (ENDS), e-hookahs and e-cigarettes. The liquid they contain also has many monikers—it might be called e-juice, e-liquid, cartridges, pods, or oil. Most vape liquids contain a combination of propylene glycol or glycerol—also called glycerin—as a base, and nicotine, marijuana, or flavoring chemicals to produce common or outlandish flavors, from mint to “unicorn puke.” The devices rely on batteries to power heating elements made of various materials that aerosolize the liquid.

“The addiction to nicotine and later conversion to (or dual use with) regular cigarettes are the greatest concerns,” says Roy S. Herbst, MD, Yale Medicine’s chief of medical oncology at Yale Cancer Center. He points to two heavyweight organizations, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), that have issued statements that vaping could be harmful to youth. (Dr. Herbst chairs the AACR Tobacco & Cancer Subcommittee that led the development of the statement.)

Juul and other vape manufacturers, including Vuse, MarkTen XL, blu, and Logic, came under scrutiny by the FDA for marketing and sales practices that seemed aimed at teens and young adults, according to an announcement the FDA released in September 2018. At the time, the agency asked the companies to submit plans on how they planned to address widespread youth access and use of their products.

But as we know from alcohol and tobacco sales to past generations, marketing tactics aimed at preventing teen and young adult use don’t work very well. Once someone becomes hooked on the addictive substance, it’s very difficult for some to stop. And the adolescent brain chemistry can make quitting that much more difficult.

“We cannot allow a whole new generation to become addicted to nicotine,” former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in the release.

Surgeon General Adams shared similar concerns, which he outlined in a news conference last year: “The number one reason young people say they try these devices is because they have flavors in them,” Dr. Adams said, noting that e-cigarettes come in kid-friendly flavors.


Probably the worst thing a parent could do for their child would be to buy an e-cigarette under the misconception that this might prevent them from smoking regular cigarettes. Parents are encouraged to talk openly and freely about vaping—with the caveat that they provide accurate information. I think the problem is that parents lose credibility if they say something to try and convince their child, who then finds out that it isn’t true.

Parents should base their information on accurate facts and also encourage their children to read about and understand the science on this issue instead of relying on what their friends and peers tell them.

Dr. Baldassarri suggests explaining the addictive nature of vaping, which would mess with the one thing teens crave the most: independence. “In some ways, when you get addicted to a drug, it’s like losing your freedom of choice,” he says. “The risk of losing that freedom might be a persuasive message for kids.”


E-cigarettes are devices that heat a liquid into an aerosol that the user inhales. The liquid usually has nicotine and flavoring in it, and other additives. The nicotine in e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes is addictive. E-cigarettes are considered tobacco products because most of them contain nicotine, which comes from tobacco.

Besides nicotine, e-cigarettes can contain harmful and potentially harmful ingredients, including:

 ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs

 flavorants such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung disease

 volatile organic compounds

 heavy metals, such as nickel, tin, and lead

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