There have been some startling reports recently on a new and deadly outbreak of lung disease linked to vaping. Seven people have died from vaping-related lung disease so far, and the number of possible cases in the US tops 450. At the moment, no one can draw any specific conclusions as to what is at fault. Reports of illness have come from 33 states and one territory, but there is no single factor that is common to all other than that they involved the use of electronic or e-cigarettes. The substances vaped include nicotine, THC, CBD or a combination thereof. Most involved bootleg products with unregulated ingredients, but some did not. Public health officials are urging people to stop using e-cigarettes and the CDC has activated its Emergency Operations Center to help with the investigation.
What is disturbing about these recent cases is that this is an entirely new phenomena in public health. The worse news is that we may just be getting our first glimpse the potential damage that vaping can cause. What is truly sad is that this crime upon our health was deliberately perpetrated upon the impressionable youth of America through a social media advertising campaign waged by Juul Labs. These recent deaths and illnesses are not the first clash that vaping has had with health officials. Here’s the timeline, blow by blow.
First, let’s be clear on one point – before Juul Labs (then part of Pax Labs) debuted its discreet USB-size vaporizer to the market in 2015, young adults had, according to the CDC, actually been using fewer tobacco products. But by Sept. 12, 2018, use of e-cigarettes had risen to such a level that the FDA declared teen vaping an “epidemic.” On September 31 the same year, the FDA seized documents about the company’s sales and marketing practices from Juul Labs’ San Francisco headquarters. After concerns were expressed that the company was luring in underage users, Juul Labs shut down Facebook and Instagram accounts, but unfortunately, the damage was already done. A legion of new nicotine users had been amassed on the plains of social media, and the addictive nature of the drug was just beginning to rear its ugly head. Teens and 20-somethings who had been enticed by the candy flavors and the easily transported and hidden buzz were only now realizing that the devices had sunk tentacles deep into their social habits and lives. Many of them had not even been aware that they were inhaling nicotine.
• April 3, 2019: the FDA announces an investigation into the potential link between seizures and vaping – seizures and convulsions are known potential side effects of nicotine poisoning, and one Juul pod packs a nicotine punch that is equivalent to an entire pack of cigarettes.
- July 26, 2019: the World Health Organization issues a global tobacco epidemic report that calls for more research and regulation of e-cigarettes.
- Aug. 7, 2019: the FDA announces 127 reports of vaping-related seizures.
- Aug. 14, 2019: The Vapor Technology Association, which represents hundreds of vaping companies, sues the FDA to delay regulators’ review of the e-cigarettes currently on the market.
- On Aug. 19, 2019, Juul Labs and Phillip Morris were sued for deceptive advertising and marketing to minors, but once again, it was too little too late. That same day, state and federal health officials reported that 153 people across 16 states, many of them young adults, had been treated for respiratory issues that occurred after vaping. On August 28, 2019, the deaths began; the count has been climbing ever since.
While it is true that no one can say what is responsible for the damage, this much is undeniable: The health risks associated with vaping are unaccountable and, therefore, precariously unpreventable. For the addicted user, this is not enough to induce a cold-turkey moratorium, so it is hoped that these clues, at least, will be taken to heart: The likelihood of health risks increases dramatically with black market products, and THC has been implicated in many, though scarcely all, of the cases. This is no time to be hunting for bargains in back alleys.
In the meantime, a message to those who have not started – vaping is another in a long line of tricks by big business to create a permanent market that they can milk for all it’s worth. It is not an innocent, tasty habit that all your friends are doing, so why don’t you. It is con game, and I hope you have the intelligence and self respect not to fall for it.
For an impressive collection of articles on the realities of vaping check this out: search.cdc.gov/search/index.html?query=vaping+deaths&sitelimit=&utf8=%E2%9C%93&affiliate=cdc-main