After three young people in Illinois were hospitalized with severe breathing problems related to vaping, the Illinois Department of Public Health is working with local health departments to warn the public about the dangers of vaping.
The use of e-cigarettes, which come in a wide variety of different flavors, has become one of the fastest growing trends among the tween and teen crowd, in large part because of the perception that it’s harmless and safe.
However, that couldn’t be further from the truth, medical professionals say. They said it’s imperative for parents to talk to their children about the dangers of vaping.
“It’s easily available and many children think it’s safe and just flavored water vapor,” said Dr. Christopher Rivera, a family medicine physician with Memorial Physician Services-Lincoln. “The reality is that it’s a drug and addictive just like any tobacco product.”
Vaping among teens has increased dramatically over the last several years,” said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. “While the short- and long-term effects of vaping are still being researched, these recent hospitalizations heighten the need for parents to talk with their teens about vaping and for both to understand the consequences and potential dangers of vaping.”
Debbie Yeaman is a registered nurse and a registered respiratory therapist at Memorial Medical Center in Springfield. She said any inhaled substance, such as vaping, has the potential to irritate and inflame the lung tissue, which could lead to the swelling of the airways in the lungs due to the tightening of surrounding smooth muscle tissue.
“The long-term effects of vaping could cause hypersensitive reactions that not only constantly recur but also prove to be difficult to treat,” Yeaman said. “Our history of a perceived innocence of tobacco use and the overwhelming proof of that error in thinking should provide the wisdom we need to avoid inhaled substances of any kind.”
Rivera pointed to targeted marketing tactics as a culprit in vaping’s growing popularity.
“The industry is using the same tactics that were used by tobacco companies several decades ago,” Rivera said. “They are denying the possible health risks that can occur in using tobacco products.”
Rivera agreed that smokeless tobacco contains fewer chemicals than cigarettes, but that doesn’t make it a safer habit.
“It still contains several harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde, which is known to cause cancer,” he said. “The problem is this product has not been around very long, and we don’t know the long-term health risks associated with using e-cigarettes, and we won’t know for another 10 to 15 years.”
Poison control centers have managed 2,439 exposure cases about e-cigarette devices and liquid nicotine as of July 31, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.
The American Heart Association estimates that at least one in four teenagers is vaping from results of a 2015 survey of more than 15,000 teens nationwide.