July 2, 2019

teen vape epidemicAlbee Budnitz MD, FACP, FCCP, did a lunch time presentation for my department last week regarding vaping or “Juuling.” It was an eye-opening presentation for many of us. From a discussion of what vaping is, the products available and “accessories” and the health implications, it was a whirlwind of frightening information. 

Here are a few of the highlights that I found most interesting, disturbing and concerning:

  • In the past year vaping among high schoolers has increased 78%.

  • Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine and most adolescents do not know this and nicotine is a very highly addictive drug.

  • Some e-cigarettes/pods contain as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes – and some teens will “vape” up to 4 pods per day – that is the equivalent of a 4 pack per day smoker!! This has led to nicotine toxicity.

  • Nicotine that is “vaped” can be delivered to the brain in as little as ten seconds and the adolescent brain is more vulnerable to nicotine addiction. This can cause long-lasting effects including increased impulsivity and mood disorders.

  • Multiple studies have found that youth who try vaping even once have a markedly increased risk of going on to smoke cigarettes and marijuana – the underlying impetus for “big tobacco” buying up vaping and marijuana companies.

  • “Vaping” is not safe or harmless.There are other harmful ingredients – greater than 100 components present including ultrafine particles of metal from the heating coil. These harmful ingredients can cause cancer and other serious lung disease.

Children are targeted in the media, online and in magazines with “flavors” and descriptions that are favorable in the mind of children. Including “accessories” and clothing that can conceal the devices for use while in school or home. For example, there is a small enough device for use in the hood drawstring of a special hoodie so it can be used while at school.

For all of the advances that were made to prevent advertising of tobacco and regular cigarettes to children and decreasing the use of cigarettes to less than 10% of U.S. high school students, the e-cigarette/vaping industry is moving fast and furious to avoid similar legislation and continue their advertising and targeting of children through loopholes of “not cigarettes” and get as many children addicted and lifelong tobacco users.

As medical care professionals, we need to educate ourselves and ensure we are having discussions with our patients and families about the harms of this mega-nicotine delivery system.

Regards,

Tessa Lafortune-Greenberg, MD
NHMS President

Please send comments or questions to tlafortune187@outlook.com.