Is Vaping Safe? 193 Vapers Hit By Mysterious Lung Disease, 1 Dead


New York – Is smoking e-cigarettes (also called vaping) better for you than using tobacco products? Is vaping totally safe? Doctors have long maintained that vaping is indeed preferable to smoking. According to Michael Blaha, M.D., M.P.H., director of clinical research at the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease, regular tobacco cigarettes contain 7,000 chemicals, many of which are toxic. While we don’t know exactly what chemicals are in e-cigarettes, Blaha says that “there’s almost no doubt that they expose you to fewer toxic chemicals than traditional cigarettes.”

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Yet despite vaping’s advantages, it is by no means safe and recently a worrying and mysterious lung disease has hit vapers in sixteen states in the US, with numerous cases reported in Illinois. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 193 people have been struck with similar symptoms between June 28th and today, one of whom has died from the disease. Symptoms include shortness of breath or having difficulty breathing, according to the CDC. Some patients said they had chest pain before being hospitalized. Others experienced vomiting, diarrhea, and fatigue.

Most of those hospitalized are young people between the age of 17 and 38. In 2015, the U.S. surgeon general reported that e-cigarette use among high school students had increased by 900 percent, and 40 percent of young e-cigarette users had never smoked regular tobacco. Last December the US Surgeon-General declared vaping an epidemic.

According to Blaha, there are three reasons e-cigarettes may be particularly enticing to young people. First, many teens believe that vaping is less harmful than smoking. Second, e-cigarettes have a lower per-use cost than traditional cigarettes. Finally, vape cartridges are often formulated with flavorings such as apple pie and watermelon that appeal to younger users.

It is not clear yet whether vaping nicotine itself was responsible for the lung disease, since in multiple cases people also said they had recently used tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-containing products. THC is found in marijuana, so it could be possible that people are vaping drugs and this may be causing their respiratory problems.

Yet even without using drugs, vaping is by no means safe. Nicotine is the primary agent in both regular cigarettes and e-cigarettes, and it is highly addictive. It causes you to crave a smoke and suffer withdrawal symptoms if you ignore the craving. Nicotine is also a toxic substance. It raises your blood pressure and spikes your adrenaline, which increases your heart rate and the likelihood of having a heart attack.

Braha adds that “you’re exposing yourself to all kinds of chemicals that we don’t yet understand and that are probably not safe.”

Moreover, many e-cigarette users get even more nicotine than they would from a tobacco product, since one can buy extra-strength cartridges, which have a higher concentration of nicotine, or alternatively one can increase the e-cigarette’s voltage to get a greater hit of the substance.

“The severity of illness people are experiencing is alarming and we must get the word out that using e-cigarettes and vaping can be dangerous,” concluded Illinois Director of Public Health Dr. Ngozi Ezike, adding that the CDC is continuing its investigation in an attempt to identify a common cause of the mysterious disease.


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