EDITORIAL: Beware the health impacts of vaping

Recent cases have demonstrated the need for young people to educate themselves about this potentially dangerous habit

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that e-cigarettes have erased relatively recent decreases in youth tobacco use.

Andrew Walsh | Cavalier Daily

Almost 200 cases of potentially vaping-related illnesses have been reported, many involving teens and young adults, The Washington Post reported Saturday. One of the victims, 20-year-old Alexander Mitchell, is in critical condition, requiring two machines to pump air in and out of his lungs and oxygenate his blood outside of his body. Mitchell lived an otherwise healthy lifestyle and was described as a hiking enthusiast.

These cases may be related to the startling increase in electronic cigarette usage across the United States — particularly among young Americans. Electronic cigarettes have been the most commonly used tobacco product among youth since 2014. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that e-cigarettes have erased relatively recent decreases in youth tobacco use.

This increase in use includes the University community, where about a fifth of students have vaped in the last month. E-cigarette use is so prevalent that it has become common to see students charging JUULs with their laptops in academic spaces. 

The Food and Drug Administration has taken a number of steps to regulate the vaping industry such as restricting the sale of flavored tobacco products, investigating the link between vaping and seizures and launching anti-vaping ad campaigns. These more aggressive regulatory moves have been met with ire by industry groups, who recently sued the FDA to delay its review of e-cigarette products. 

Given the FDA’s ongoing attempts to exercise oversight authority over e-cigarettes, the potentially irreversible health effects of these devices and the small amount of research into vaping, students at the University must exercise caution when using these devices.

Warnings about the dangers of vaping are especially important given young people’s apparent ignorance of their potential health impacts. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 72 percent of young people either believe that these devices cause no harm or a small amount of harm. This lack of knowledge can lull young users into a false sense of security leading to nicotine addiction and other adverse health effects that stem from vaping. As CDC Director Robert R. Redfield put it, “Youth use of any tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, is unsafe.” 

This is borne out in the research, including one study which indicates that even one use of a vape can lead to changes in how blood vessels function. Additionally, there is a considerable amount of research into the consequences of  nicotine addiction, including blood pressure and adrenaline spikes, increased likelihood of a heart attack. Nicotine has also been shown in some studies to be a carcinogen

The popularity of vaping has become such a prevalent issue that then-FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb referred to the issue as an “epidemic.” Therefore it is essential that we are careful and take steps to educate ourselves about their risks, especially since misconceptions surrounding these devices are widespread. It is too soon to tell what exactly the societal impact of these devices will be or how effective any potential regulation will be, but University students must prioritize their health and rethink their vaping habits.  

The Cavalier Daily Editorial Board is composed of the Executive Editor, the Editor-in-Chief, the two Opinion Editors and their Senior Associate. The board can be reached at eb@cavalierdaily.com.

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