What Parents Need to Know About Vaping

You’ve probably always suspected that vaping isn’t the best habit for anyone, let alone teens. And now it seems that we are collecting evidence of this, as hundreds of people across the country suffer from severe lung conditions associated with vaping, and many of them are teens or young adults in their 20s and 20s.

Vaping, also known as JUULing after a popular brand name, is the process of inhaling and exhaling aerosol, or “vapor,” through an e-cigarette device. The aerosol usually contains nicotine or THC (cannabis), and what the New England Journal of Medicine describes as “ultrafine particles, heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, and other harmful ingredients.”

Vaping can be especially tempting for teens because the liquid comes in many different sweet or fruity flavors: mango, mint chocolate, custard, cinnamon roll, strawberry cream, and many more. Since 2014, e-cigarettes have been the most widely consumed tobacco product among young people in the United States, according to the New England Journal of Medicine . And in the past year, high school students used them much more often than adults (20.8% versus 3.2%).

This may explain why many patients diagnosed with severe vaping-related lung disease are young and otherwise healthy, with no detectable bacterial or viral infections, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer :

One by one, doctors rule out infections, viruses, autoimmune diseases and all possible causes of these symptoms. They have only one major culprit left: vaping.

“The patients I saw were healthy, young. They were all men and otherwise no major health problems, ”said Gautam George, assistant professor of pulmonary therapy and resuscitation at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. “We don’t quite understand what exactly in vaping is causing this constellation of symptoms.”

What do we know (and do not know)

Early symptoms of the disease include cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and fever. This may look like a rapidly developing pneumonia and may require artificial respiration.

The CDC and FDA are still researching and analyzing patient-supplied samples to determine the specific link between all patients being treated for vaping-related illness. While they indicated that vitamin E acetate from cannabis samples is being specifically researched because almost all of them contain the chemical, not all patients reported using the cannabis product.

And since vaping is still a relatively new trend, any other short or long term health effects of vaping are still largely unknown.

What can you do

As with any other risky behavior, it is important to establish an ongoing dialogue with teens about vaping. Even if you have no idea that they have tried this, they most likely have friends who vape. The American Lung Association has created a website called The Vape Talk with a selection of helpful resources for parents, including:

The New Jersey Department of Health has also put together a helpful guide for teens and parents with information about vaping and a phone number where teens can text messages asking for help in quitting smoking .

Finally, take advantage of the news. Share stories – like the one my local newspaper wrote about a few days ago – about young people who are admitted to the hospital with a vaping-related illness. Teens often think that they are invincible, and it doesn’t hurt to be reminded that they are not.


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