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Vaping: How Much More Damage Will it Take?

Recent vaping death makes FDA three-year plan for youth restrictions feel like a millennium

By Joshua Mansour, M.D.

Despite the recent vaping death, the FDA is still allowing e-cigarette makers until 2022 to submit their plans for preventing underage access to their products.

But is that too late?

While e-cigarettes and vaping were initially intended to help adults quit smoking traditional cigarettes, they have managed to entice younger individuals to pick up this dangerous habit. The colorful packaging, different flavors — it all looks seemingly harmless.

These devices were and still are marketed as “being safer,” although they can lead to nicotine addiction, harmful side effects of frequent nicotine use, irritation to the lining of the lungs and hospitalization. Additionally, a new wave of adverse effects has surfaced, many of which are affecting children.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now investigating several cases of severe lung disease that is linked to vaping in over a dozen states recently. There have now been over 100 recent cases.

Why is this attracting the younger population?

One reason is that there remains a façade that this isn’t as dangerous as smoking traditional tobacco cigarettes. Many of the possible side effects that we have seen with conventional cigarette smoking, which is now marketed and outwardly displayed to the public, is not done so with electronic cigarettes and devices. This, of course, can be because not enough time has passed to show a correlation or causal relationship. This doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist though. It took decades before doctors believed that there was a case against cigarettes. It is now known to be the deadliest artifact in the history of human civilization.

Unlike the foul taste and musty odor of its earlier counterpart, the new e-cigarettes have a multitude of flavors and colorful packaging available that attract many people. Eddie Fatakhov, integrative medicine and board-certified internal medicine physician, suggests that “this could contribute to the fact that the CDC has seen a decrease in cigarette smoking among teens, but unfortunately a change to a surge in the use of vaping products”. He states that cutting out these flavors would likely make the big difference in their current appeal to teens.

What are the different dangers associated with vaping?

Although part of it is yet to be understood in its entirety, which is scary, there are already several known dangers. A countless number of these products include a variety of chemicals that have not been tested. Joseph Allen, an environmental scientist at Harvard University, co-authored a study published this year in which they tested over 35 cartridges and 35 different electronic-cigarette liquid products. In many of these, they found microbes and microbial toxins (some of bacteria and fungus) that can have adverse respiratory effects.

Patients thus far have experienced shortness of breath, fatigue, weight loss, coughing and even severe lung disease leading to lung collapse. Both the long and short-term repercussions are not fully understood at this time as the FDA does not require the manufacturers to list all the ingredients in these devices. Therefore, there may be unknown carcinogens that may increase a person’s overall risk to cancer compared to someone that does not smoke.

In addition to the several lung issues caused and being investigated by the CDC, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is now investigating over a hundred reports of neurological conditions, including seizures, following e-cigarette usage.

‘In addition to the several lung issues caused and being investigated by the CDC, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is now investigating over a hundred reports of neurological conditions, including seizures, following e-cigarette usage.’

Many of these devices contain extremely high concentrations of nicotine, which we know can have both and addictive and detrimental effect, even at low doses. Several of the symptoms of nicotine include, but are not limited to tremors, increase in heart rate, profuse sweating, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and even seizures. Furthermore, the euphoric effect of nicotine lasts for a short period of time, leading individuals to use it more frequently and later require more of it to receive this buzz.

There is already data on several of the harmful effects of these devices, with even more set to come. FDA officials have urged others “who have experience unexpected or product issues to report them through the federal agency” as several health issues continue to surface. As more information continues to pour in from hospitals, clinics, physicians, and patients it remains important to know the several health risks associated with vaping and to inform others. Although there remains a lot to be discovered, one thing is for sure: this must be addressed and fast.

Joshua Mansour

Joshua Mansour is a board-certified hematologist/oncologist working and in the field of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation and cellular immunotherapy in Los Angeles, California. In June 2019 he was a recipient of the ‘40 Under 40 in Cancer’ award. Abstracts, manuscripts, and commentaries by Mansour have been published in U.S. News & World Report and more than 100 other journals and media outlets.