Vaping and e-cigarette use are urgent public health issues. The first death due to severe lung injuries linked to vaping was reported in Illinois this month. Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration is investigating at least 127 cases of first-time seizure activity that were potentially linked to vaping.
For those unfamiliar with vaping, this is an act of inhaling aerosolized nicotine containing vapor produced by an electronic cigarette, pen, pod or other device. There is a misconception of safety with these devices as some believe that they are safer than cigarettes. This is a dangerous perception, especially for our youth. Nicotine is very addictive. Additionally, the chemicals found in e-cigarettes have been identified as carcinogenic.
E-cigarette use among middle and high school students has risen drastically in recent years. Data released from the National Youth Tobacco Survey, collected from 2015-18, demonstrates that the number of children exposed to secondhand aerosol from e-cigarettes has risen from one in four to one in three. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, in an article published Wednesday, the number of middle and high school students exposed to e-cigarettes in public places is growing.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data demonstrates that one in five high school-age children and one in 20 middle school-age children currently use e-cigarettes in some form. This level of nicotine exposure is dangerous for the developing brain and is likely to create nicotine addiction. These devices are attractive to our youth because they are more easily concealed. They also attract young consumers because of added flavors.
West Virginia health care providers must work to educate our patients about the dangers of vaping. Even more, we must be diligent in evaluation and treatment of severe pulmonary illness in patients that may be related to vaping, as advised in Health Alert #161 from our commissioner and state health officer of the Bureau for Public Health, Dr. Catherine Slemp. As a community, we need to work together to educate our youth and guide them to make smart choices that will have a more positive impact on their future health.
Follow the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department’s website and social media accounts in the coming weeks for updates and additional information on the dangers of vaping and e-cigarette use.