Q&A on e-Cigs: Vaping's Rising Health Hazards

An outbreak of a vaping-related lung disease has sickened 804 people — mostly young men — and killed 12, including one in Florida, according to the latest update from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of Sept. 26.

The number of people who have fallen sick from vaping continues to climb, and cases are being investigated in 46 states, including Florida, and one U.S. territory, the CDC says.

“We do not yet know the specific cause ofthese lung injuries,” the agency stated. “The investigation has not identifiedany specific e-cigarette or vaping product (devices, liquids, refill pods,and/or cartridges) or substance that is linked to all cases.”

However, the agency recommends individuals “considerrefraining from using e-cigarette or vaping products.”

e-Cigarettes are devices that deliver an aerosol to the user by heating a liquid that usually contains nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals, the CDC says. E-cigarettes can also be used to deliver marijuana or other substances, the agency adds.

The CDC provided the first demographic snapshot of the afflicted: Nearly three-quarters are male, two-thirds are between ages 18 and 34. Sixteen percent are 18 or younger. And, according to Anne Schuchat, M.D., principal deputy director of the CDC, “More than half of cases are under 25 years of age.”

With vaping continuing to be a hot-button topic, two experts — pulmonologist Javier Pérez-Fernández, M.D., the critical care director at Baptist Hospital of Miami; and Mikki Thompson, director of pulmonary services at South Miami Hospital — joined a panel discussion on Baptist Health’s Facebook Live program to discuss what they currently know about the dangers of vaping.

“What’s concerning is our kids are exposed to vaping, and when the kids are exposed to vaping we’re seeing a tremendous increase in addiction to nicotine products,” states Dr. Perez-Fernandez.

Here are the key takeaways from the Baptist Health Newsroom discussion with Dr. Perez-Fernandez and Ms. Thompson:

Is vaping still bad for your health?

“Itis and there’s no question about it,” says Dr. Perez-Fernandez. “All these elementscontain nicotine so they’re addictive elements and they will produce addictionto customers … tobacco companies are well-known to be masking the results ofthe use of these products.” 

Hecontinued: “For over 50 years they’ve been hiding the effects of tobaccoproducts to our patients and now it’s not much different with these vapingproducts. It’s very important to realize that vaping contains substances thatare harmful to the body; they’re harmful to the brain, they are harmful to thelungs, and they will produce significant damage whether it’s now or later.”

What is inside an e-Cigarette?

“We don’t really know all the secret ingredients inside those vaping products … there are many brands and we are not sure exactly what every one of them contain,” says Dr. Perez- Fernandez.

Ms. Thompson added: “One of the other concerns is that we’re not sure what they’re adding to it. They’re trying to get more young people to smoke it, so they’re putting in candy flavors and other different types of components like marijuana … that’s a concern.”

Are e-Cigarettes are proven for smokingcessation?

“No, what we’re seeing is that there’s a double dual … People who feel likeit’s a smoking cessation tool come in using it, but they’re also smokingcigarettes,” Ms. Thompson says.

The marketing of e-Cigarettes appeals toyounger demographics, correct?

“Yes, they make it cool and make it have a coolappearance and they make it in forms and in devices that are very similar toelectronic games … but vaping not only can cause damage to you, but also candamage the people around you,” said Dr. Perez-Fernandez. “It’s not cool,it’s not useful, and it’s not good for you.”

Is secondhand exposure from vaping still aconcern?

“It is a concern. Yeah, I would sayso,” says Ms. Thompson. “We don’t have a lot of scientific proof right now …but if you’re blowing it out and if I’m walking along or I’m sitting next toyou, then I’m inhaling it, too.”

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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