Vaping-related illnesses sweep the US

Flavored vapes blamed for rise of young users. Photo: Taelar Pollmann · The Sentry

Coloradans among those hospitalized
Flavored vapes blamed for rise of young users.
Photo: Taelar Pollmann · The Sentry

Just one week after the first case arose, the second vape-related illness in Colorado was confirmed on Aug. 29, joining 193 cases across the country. Symptoms of the mystery illness include shortness of breath, chest pain, and fatigue. With one of the highest rates of teen vaping, Colorado is a prime target.

According to a recent study from the Center for Disease Control, nearly a quarter of teens in Colorado report using e-cigarettes or vapes. The most note-worthy culprit? Juul brand e-cigarettes were released in 2017 with flavors like mango and crème brûlée. Though their mission is to “Improve the lives of the world’s one billion adult smokers by eliminating cigarettes,” Juul’s popularity reached teens under 18.

President Trump has also expressed concern about vaping, stating on Sept. 11  that the Food & Drug Administration will soon make recommendations on the issue.

The illness is speculated to be related to the liquid present in e-cigarette products, though because e-cigarettes were only introduced in the early 2000s, there is little research on the harm they can cause.

Many e-cigarette companies, including Juul, target their advertising towards cigarette smokers, highlighting e-cigarettes as a transition to not smoking at all. Even though e-cigarettes are a common resource for people quitting smoking, they are not free of harm. A single Juul pod contains as much nicotine as a pack of 20 cigarettes, as well as various chemicals.

Vaping products may also be used for marijuana consumption. According to The Denver Post, the first death caused by vaping was related to a contaminant in a marijuana vape. Most of the patients treated for the mystery illness report using THC-containing products. However, a briefing released by the CDC emphasizes that no singular product has been connected to the illnesses.

Despite many health professionals condemning the use of e-cigarettes, some groups ardently support them as an alternative to traditional smoking. One organization, Vaping 360, accused the CDC of confusing the public by not delineating the difference between marijuana oil and vaping. In an article published on their website, Vaping 360 states, “The enemies of nicotine and vaping are trying to leverage this sad situation to pressure the FDA to take further action to weaken the vaping market.”

Many e-cigarette companies are complying with the requests of the CDC to test their products. “We have no higher priority than product safety which is why we have implemented industry-leading quality controls and appropriately label our products with ingredient disclosures and health warnings,” Juul said in a statement regarding the CDC investigation.

In recent months, multiple states have implemented further bans on vaping. Boulder County has banned the sale of flavored vape products and raised the tobacco purchasing age to 21. So far, 18 states and 480 localities have increased the buying age for tobacco. In Denver, the legal purchasing age for tobacco is 18; however, the Clean Indoor Air Act was recently revised to include e-cigarettes, which means they cannot be used within 25 feet of most businesses. The use of any tobacco product, including e-cigarettes, on the CU Denver campus is confined to smoking areas.

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