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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 of these lung injuries,” the agency stated. “The investigation has not identified any 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 “consider refraining from using e-cigarette or vaping products.”

e-Cigarettes [1] 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 [2], M.D., the critical care director at Baptist Hospital of Miami [3]; and Mikki Thompson, director of pulmonary services at South Miami Hospital [4] — joined a panel discussion on Baptist Health’s Facebook Live program [5] 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?

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

He continued: “For over 50 years they’ve been hiding the effects of tobacco products to our patients and now it’s not much different with these vaping products. It’s very important to realize that vaping contains substances that are harmful to the body; they’re harmful to the brain, they are harmful to the lungs, 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 smoking cessation?

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

The marketing of e-Cigarettes appeals to younger demographics, correct?

“Yes, they make it cool and make it have a cool appearance and they make it in forms and in devices that are very similar to electronic games … but vaping not only can cause damage to you, but also can damage 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 a concern?

“It is a concern. Yeah, I would say so,” 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 to you, then I’m inhaling it, too.”