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The Ugly Truth About Vaping

Juuling, vaping, vape pens, flavored tobacco, and e-cigarettes…. Michigan youth are in the midst of a vaping epidemic.

What should a parent know about vaping and e-cigarettes? What are the health implications? Would you recognize the signs if your child was vaping?

“The recent data from the FDA show a large increase in high school e-cigarette use and this is after years of a decline in overall tobacco use in our youth,” said Dr. Brandon Hooks DO, FACOI pulmonologist at Ascension Borgess Hospital. “I’m seeing an increase in lung injury associated with e-cigarette use, as defined by the CDC guidelines, and in some patients the damage is irreversible.”

Let’s take a look at some local statistics. A survey called the 2017-2018 Michigan Profile for Healthy Youth Survey was voluntarily administered throughout Michigan in grades 7, 9 and 11. The results showed that about 30 percent of Michigan 11th graders self-reported that they had used e-cigarettes in the past month before the survey. Things weren’t much better for ninth-grade students who self reported a 20 percent usage or our seventh grade students who reported a 7 percent usage.

Vaping Devices, often known as e-cigarettes, are battery operated devices that heat a liquid solution that typically includes nicotine, flavoring and other chemicals.

While using an e-cigarette is often called “vaping,” the devices usually produce an aerosol, not a vapor. The aerosol often includes particles of metals and toxic chemicals that have been linked to heart disease, respiratory disease and cancer.

As the generation of products progresses, they are becoming sleeker and more colorful, and resembling a USB drive -something very familiar to kids. They have vibrant colors and enticing flavors to youth such as mint, fruit and candy flavors.

Many of these products are inexpensive. Vaping usually doesn’t leave the same lingering odor on clothing as tobacco and there is also a mistaken belief among kids that e-cigarettes are healthier than traditional forms of tobacco.

Short-term health effects after e-cigarette use are mouth and throat irritation, nausea, headache and dry cough. Recently there is an uptick in serious lung injuries. Unfortunately, long-term health effects are unknown. Research shows exposure to cinnamon and menthol e-liquids are the most damaging to cells.

As of publication of this article, three Michiganders have died as a result of vaping related use. Our medical communities are searching for answers. The American Heart Association has also heard from dentists in Michigan who are seeing damage and sensitivity to teeth as a result of vaping.

“The unfortunate reality is most youth do not consider use of e-cigarettes as smoking. Youth more importantly represent a vulnerable population,” said Dr. Hooks. “As healthcare professionals, it is important that we educate youth not only on bad habits, but health behaviors that can impact their future of development of chronic lung related diseases.”

“JUUL launched with a social marketing campaign that positioned them as the cool “vape of choice” for kids,“ said Jeanne LaSargeBono, executive director for the American Heart Association in West Michigan. “JUUL has been incredibly successful. A recent report claimed that nearly half of Juul’s followers on Twitter last year were teens. In addition, many young celebrities are using Juul and those photos are being shared around social media – fueling the craze.”

Some parents admit that they did not realize the products contained nicotine and that they thought vaping involved just “harmless flavored water”. The American Heart Association recommends that you talk with your kids and teens about the dangers of vaping and they have resources for you.

Learn more about what impact you might have with your child’s school, your company or community by visiting Heart.org/tobaccoEndGame or reach out to your local American Heart Association staff. On an advocacy front, sign up for the You’re the Cure Action Center to learn what steps are being taken locally & nationally. YOURETHECURE.ORG/JOIN

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