This past September, the eighth vaping-related death in the country from severe lung disease was confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). As of October 1, the CDC has reported 805 confirmed and potential cases of e-cigarette-related lung illness in at least 46 states, including NJ. In fact, it was just confirmed that a North Jersey woman died from vaping-related illness. Vapers suffering from this illness reported difficulty breathing, shortness of breath and chest pain, plus vomiting and diarrhea in some cases.
If you have a middle or high schooler, odds are you’re worried about the vaping epidemic and have warned your kids about how dangerous it is. Vaping—the act of inhaling vapor made by heating a nicotine and chemical-filled e-liquid—has become a serious problem, namely among adolescents. In response to the spate of illnesses, the Garden State is working on a plan that may go into effect in the near future.
HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?
The initial purpose of vapes and e-cigarettes was to help adult smokers quit, but the devices have since become our nation’s number one drug threat to teens. Not only are they becoming addicted to vaping, but a 2018 report from the National Academy of Medicine found evidence that suggests one’s e-cig usage ups the frequency and amount of regular cigarettes they’ll smoke in the future.
Because it’s so new, no one knows the short- or long-term consequences frequent use can have. JUUL, the top-selling e-cigarette brand in the country, has already faced serious heat from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its popularity with teens.
Its sleek, USB-like design, trendy colors and variety of flavors make it especially attractive to underage users. Not surprisingly, it’s a very dangerous attraction. E-cigarette vapor contains nicotine; heavy metals like nickel, tin and lead; carcinogenic chemicals, and most notably, diacetyl, a flavoring chemical linked to lung disease. Diacetyl has been connected to bronchiolitis obliterans, also known as popcorn lung, a lung disease that damages small airways causing coughing and breathing issues. This chemical is used in e-juice flavors like vanilla and coconut thanks to its buttery taste, according to the American Lung Association. Researchers at Harvard found diacetyl in 39 of 51 types of tested e-cigs sold by leading brands. Forty-seven had high priority flavor compounds in them, meaning they could pose a respiratory hazard—even without containing diacetyl.
THE PLAN TO BAN
As of September, the New Jersey Health Department confirmed several severe vape-related lung illnesses. NJ State Senator Stephen Sweeney has since called for a phased-in ban on e-smoking devices, nicotine cartridges and other vape products. Governor Phil Murphy announced that a vaping task force is in the works and signed an executive order to find protective measures for NJ residents, especially young adults and minors, rather than a total ban. The task force’s findings could lead to new laws for the state legislature to weigh in on.
Other states have also taken action. Michigan was the first to ban sales of all flavored e-cigs (besides tobacco flavor) both in stores and online. New York banned most flavored e-cigs as well, and California is following suit (San Francisco’s already banned them altogether). Federally, the Trump administration plans to ban flavored e-cigs. Experts believe sweet and fruity flavors are what get teens hooked in the first place.
SIGNS YOUR TEEN IS VAPING
You may think your kid won’t experiment, let alone become addicted. But here are the alarming facts: E-cigarette use rose 87 percent among high schoolers and 48 percent among middle schoolers from 2017-2018, according to the FDA. Here are the signs:
- You detect a sticky-sweet scent A USB-like device or strange pen is always within reach
- Discarded atomizers, pods or organic cotton balls
- She gets agitated or irritated if she can’t get her fix
- He’s calmer after a trip to the bathroom or his room
- Dry-mouth and nosebleeds caused by dehydration
- Mouth sores and a smoker’s cough
- She’s always asking for money (it’s an expensive habit)
Stay vigilant, and talk to your kids candidly and without judgment about the real dangers of vaping.