5 things to know about vaping


There has been an increased amount of attention surrounding vaping due to the recent outbreak of lung illnesses and even deaths over the last few months.

As of last month, there have been 37 deaths linked to vaping, with the majority occurring in young men, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). CDC officials have also linked more than 1,800 cases of lung injuries to vaping.

Take our pledge to love your lungs, and be entered to win a $50 Visa gift card!  

It appears that there may be several factors related to this outbreak, and the investigation remains ongoing. However, vaping is still considered unsafe. Here are a few things you need to know about vaping:

  1. Symptoms of vaping-related illness can vary. Symptoms can include cough, shortness of breath or chest pain, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain or diarrhea, fever, chills or weight loss, the CDC says. Additionally, symptoms appeared over a wide range of time – some in a few days and others over several weeks.
  1. Vaping doesn’t just affect your lungs. Recent research has shown that e-cigarette vapor caused DNA damage in the lungs and bladder in mice exposed to the equivalent of three to six years of vaping. Research also shows that e-cigarette users developed the same molecular changes in oral tissue that cause cancer in cigarette smokers. Also, defective e-cigarette batteries can cause injuries, including severe burns as well as fires and explosions. E-cigarette liquid has also poisoned both children and adults.
  2. Use among youth is increasing at alarming rates. In 2018, over 3.6 million kids were currently using e-cigarettes. Sadly, use by high school students increased 78 percent and in middle school children by 48 percent in one year!
  3. Most e-cigarettes contain highly addictive nicotine. While nicotine itself is not known to cause cancer, it is a stimulant that can cause health problems. It can also be as difficult to give up as heroin. The impact of nicotine and the chemical changes it causes in the adolescent brain are very important because the brain is not fully developed until age 25. This can lead to permanent changes in the brain at a critical time in development, affecting memory, learning and cognition. It can also increase the risk of addiction to other substances. Don’t forget that e-cigarettes can also contain other harmful substances besides nicotine. E-cigarettes contain at least 60 potentially toxic chemicals that irritate your lungs and can cause lasting lung damage and disease.
  1. There is no safe level of vaping. The long-term health risks of vaping are unknown. However, there are already studies linking e-cigarettes to adverse health effects. In fact, vaping is currently restricted or banned in 26 countries.

READ MORE: Juuling: One year later

Here in Maryland, the new minimum age to buy any tobacco product, including e-cigarettes, is 21 (with the exception of those who are 18 and serving in the military).  

Interestingly, companies that manufacture e-cigarettes are using the same tactics that the cigarette industry used long ago by touting the “safety” of their products and marketing to youth. 

While the first medical reports linking smoking to lung cancer first appeared in the 1920s, it wasn’t until 1964 that the surgeon general released the first report concluding that smoking caused lung cancer and led to chronic bronchitis. 

Only time will tell the type of damage e-cigarettes will cause. But until then, it would be wise to refrain from using them.

Stephen Cattaneo, MD, is a thoracic surgeon and medical director of Thoracic Oncology at AAMC.