We know that people die from smoking cigarettes. What people didn’t anticipate when e-cigarettes came onto the scene was that people would die from vaping. After all, vaping was a safer alternative to smoking, and it was healthy!
As of September 2019, over a dozen people have died from vaping. With still no long-term studies on the effects of vaping, medical professionals and public health officials aren’t sure what it is in e-cigarettes that are killing people. There are suspicions about certain compounds like THC, the psychoactive substance in cannabis, but nothing conclusive can be said.
Our lungs were designed for inhaling oxygen so that it can be transported throughout the body and exhale carbon dioxide, the waste product of cellular respiration. They were not designed to cope with foreign substances, especially the chemicals found in cigarettes, be they traditional cigarettes or e-cigarettes.
Many people who have become ill from vaping had no previous respiratory condition before they began using e-cigarettes. They began to develop respiratory problems afterward, and some of those problems became fatal. The symptoms tend to start mildly and become progressively worse.
Many e-liquids contain an ingredient called propylene glycol. Propylene glycol irritates the eyes and airways. When it is heated, as it is in e-cigarettes, it transforms into acetaldehyde and formaldehyde, both of which are known carcinogens.
However, what may even be more disturbing, especially from the standpoint of public health, is that the particles inside the aerosol created by vaping are much smaller and finer than the particles created by traditional cigarettes. These particles can lodge themselves deeper into the lungs. While they may not be as toxic on their own, they can cause much more damage – and faster deterioration – than smoking traditional cigarettes.
What is particularly concerning about e-cigarettes is just how many kids are using them. As of September 2019, fully one out of every four high school seniors have vaped within the past month. Nearly 10% of eighth-graders are using e-cigarettes. That number is more than double what it was only two years ago.
What we could soon be facing is another public health crisis that mirrors the one that e-cigarettes were meant to solve: smoking. More kids than ever are becoming addicted to nicotine, and this addiction is coming through e-cigarettes. It seems that over the long term, the cure – vaping – may actually be worse than the disease.
Vaping-related illnesses are quickly on the rise, and in rare cases, they lead to death. There have been over 800 cases of vaping-related diseases as of the middle of September 2019, with dozens of new cases every day. Over half the people getting sick are under 25, and 16% of them are under 18.
These statistics show a disproportionate number of young people getting sick compared to the overall number of people who vape. Even more concerning is that these people who are getting sick are not vaping to overcome an addiction to traditional cigarettes. Many of them began vaping without having ever picked up a conventional cigarette.
Vaping was first promoted as a panacea to help people stop smoking, but it has since morphed into a public health crisis. The growing numbers of people, especially children, who are getting sick from vaping, combined with the dearth of long-term studies on the effects of vaping, have public health officials growing increasingly concerned.
We don’t know what the effects of vaping are on people’s brains, especially on children’s minds that are still developing. We also don’t know the long-term effects of the exceptionally high doses of nicotine that vapers are inhaling. We don’t know what the future holds, and this is particularly scary considering that the use of e-cigarettes continues to rise.
33. The Center For Disease Control Is Now Involved
With the rise in vaping-related illnesses and the deaths that have occurred, especially during the summer of 2019, the Center for Disease Control is now investigating hundreds of the reported cases. They want to know what it is about e-liquids and e-cigarettes that is making people sick.
Vaping, especially among children, is now being seen as an epidemic. Public health officials and medical professionals are warning people to stop vaping immediately. Until we know what the long-term effects of vaping are and what is causing people to get sick, people should stop altogether.
The best answer is neither, but from the perspective of public health, that answer only works in a perfect world. At the heart of the problem is not e-cigarettes themselves, but the fact that they are marketed as healthy. There are very few regulations around them, so they are used frequently in product placement, which appeals primarily to children.
Vaping is probably still better than traditional cigarettes, but only to a certain extent. If smokers are vaping in addition to using tobacco, then there is probably no benefit to vaping. However, if they are vaping to wean themselves off of cigarettes and quit altogether, then vaping is perhaps the best choice.
Where Did We Find This Stuff? Here Are our Sources:
“The Effects of Smoking on the Body.” Healthline. “What You Should Know About Vaping and E-Cigarettes,” by Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin. Ted Med. “E-Cigarettes: Welcome Back, Big Tobacco.” The Fifth Estate. “Eighth death linked to vaping as illnesses surge around the United States,” by Jen Christensen and Jamie Gumbrecht. CNN. September 20, 2019.