Vaping casualties skyrocket

Sept. 26, 2019: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just updated vaping-related lung injury to 805 cases, 12 confirmed deaths. When I started this article a few days ago, the count was 503, 7 confirmed deaths.

By the time you’re reading this article, I’m guessing it’ll be past a thousand.

On Sept. 20, a 59-year-old Beachwood man became the first confirmed case in Cuyahoga County.

What’s gone wrong? Vaping – the harmless steam smokers use to quit smoking – has been around for over a decade.

The FDA is hunting for culprits.

I don’t know what they’ll find. It’s a bit like scouring the municipal garbage dump, trying to figure out what stinks, what stinks fatally, and for whom.

You see, cigarette smoke releases over 7,000 chemicals; over 250 are harmful, 69 are carcinogens.

Vaped nicotine releases fewer (not safer) chemicals. And these days, a mob of producers are adding, substituting, adulterating the stuff. FDA testing has found carcinogens, heavy metals, pesticides, and other how-did-it-get-there? poisons in e-cigarettes.

None of these chemicals should be in our lungs.

The casualty count is rising rapidly. I suspect that before CDC started tracking cases in April, people got sick from vaping but might’ve chalked it up to a viral cold, pneumonia, stomach flu, or other drug effects. Now we know better.

The doctor-in-me clicks every newsfeed containing the words FDA/vaping/lungs (yeah, a little obsessed), but the mother-in-me is alarmed by a much-less-talked-about number.

Between 2011 to 2019, the rate of vaping among high schoolers went from 1.5 percent to 27.5 percent.

Dr. Alain Braillon, a senior addiction consultant at University Hospital in France, wrote in the journal JAMA Oncology, “The concern is not a few deaths due a specific substance … but a free race for nicotine and flavors which are gateways to addictions.”

Vaping has become the most prevalent form of tobacco use among youth. Indeed, CDC recently announced that the surge in teen e-cigarette use has effectively reversed all recent progress in curbing tobacco use.

Habits form early. Who knows best? The tobacco industry. Nearly 90 percent of adult smokers start before the age of 18.

Despite whatever misinformation circulates on social media, vaping can deliver high-dose nicotine – which is highly addictive, impairs children’s brain development, and is considered a gateway drug to cigarette smoking.

Most young users don’t know that JUUL (the most popular e-cigarette brand) – all JUUL products – contain nicotine. According to the Surgeon General, a typical JUUL cartridge, or “pod,” contains as much nicotine as a pack of 20 cigarettes.

Ohio has raised the legal age to purchase e-cigarettes from 18 to 21 and slotted $4 million to educate kids and parents on the danger of vaping.

Is it enough? I hope. I pray. The opioid crisis is costing Ohio three times that amount daily (or an estimated $4 billion to $5 billion dollars annually, per a CNBC report).

Chinese fortune-cookie wisdom on addiction prevention: The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second best time is now.

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Volume 11, Issue 19, Posted 9:16 AM, 10.01.2019