- Juul’s CEO has stepped down and the brand will be suspending advertising in the US. This news comes after recent controversy over the e-cigarette company’s marketing to children and teens.
- Health officials have reported six deaths and at least 450 cases of lung injury connected to vaping.
- Patients with vaping-associated lung injury display a wide array of respiratory symptoms, including coughing and chest pain.
- Doctors still don’t know what’s behind the surge in vaping-related lung injuries. They suspect it’s not nicotine or THC, but other chemicals like vitamin E acetate that might be present in the vape device.
- People who vape are exposed to other serious health risks, beyond lung injury, doctors say. For example, nicotine, which can be present in high concentrations in e-cigarettes, is linked to brain development issues.
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Following is a transcript of the video.
Benji Jones: This is an X-ray of a patient’s lungs. And here’s an X-ray of those same lungs just five days later. See all that light grey? That’s fluid, which filled their lungs because of a life-threatening lung disease linked to vaping. For years, vaping has been touted as a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes. But now some vaping products are killing people. So what’s going on? And is it really bad for you? Vaping typically refers to inhaling an aerosol which contains either nicotine, in the case of e-cigarettes, or some form of cannabis, such as the psychoactive chemical THC. And in the last few years, it has exploded in popularity, especially among teens. I mean, just look at this graph. It shows the per cent of high school students who use e-cigarettes. In 2018, it was over 20%, and that’s what makes this news so scary:
Reporter: A patient died from a severe respiratory illness, and it could the country’s first vaping-related death.
Jones: That was in August of 2019, and by early September, the number of reported deaths linked to vaping had climbed to at least six, not to mention there were at least 450 possible lung injuries tied to both THC and nicotine vape pens.
Melodi Pirzada: I have been saying this from the beginning: Looks like it’s becoming an epidemic.
Jones: That’s Dr. Melodi Pirzada, who’s treated at least two patients with what she calls vaping-associated lung injury.
Pirzada: So over here we are seeing our 18-year-old patient, who when he first presented to the emergency room with chest pain, fever, coughing, and vomiting, and as you see over here, it is the black is for the lungs, and you see nice, still black.
Jones: But five days later, his lungs were filled with fluid because of inflammation, which she said was linked to vaping THC.
Pirzada: Once you come to this point, the chance of dying can be as high as 70%.
Jones: So what’s causing all that inflammation, all of these lung injuries? The short answer is: We don’t really know. Doctors say it’s likely not the nicotine or THC itself, but rather other chemicals inside the liquid which get vaporized when you inhale. One possible culprit is vitamin E acetate, which health officials have found inside many vape pens that have been linked to the recent string of lung injuries.
Pirzada: When you start inhaling oils, any type of oil, vitamin E is an oil, any type of oil, if you start to inhale to your lungs, you are going to create problems inside your alveoli.
Jones: Alveoli are small bubbles inside your lungs that transfer oxygen to your blood, and she says that vitamin E could interfere with a lining that surrounds them called pulmonary surfactant. But according to Dr. Mikhail Kazachkov…
Kazachkov: I don’t think vitamin E is the only guilty, you know, substance here.
Jones: Because when it comes to vape pens…
Kazachkov: You’re gonna inhale dozens of other substances, which are not necessarily advertised, but they are there. There definitely needs to be a carrier, a vehicle, because nicotine cannot be delivered just in a pure form.
Jones: Until researchers find out what’s behind vaping-associated lung injuries, the CDC says don’t vape. But here’s the thing. Lung injuries? They’re actually not the only risk associated with vaping. One small study, for example, found that kids who used e-cigarettes might be exposed to higher levels of nicotine than those who used traditional cigarettes.
Kazachkov: Would not be unusual to have extremely, extraordinary high concentration of nicotine in vape.
Kazachkov: Nicotine is not benign.
Jones: It raises your blood pressure, which can increase the risk of having a heart attack. And if you’re a teen…
Pirzada: It is known to cause problems with the brain development.
Jones: Not to mention it’s highly addictive. Now, you might be thinking, “Well, isn’t vaping still better for you than smoking?” But the answer isn’t so simple. You see, smoking is really bad. It kills more than 480,000 Americans each year. And vaporizers? They typically contain fewer toxic chemicals than the 7,000 or so found in cigarettes. But at least in the short term…
Kazachkov: There’s absolutely no reason to say that vaping is healthier than smoking. In my opinion, vaping is worse, because we are scared. We don’t know what to do.
Jones: So if nothing else, there’s probably a better alternative to smoking than vaping. And if you’re not already a smoker, you definitely should not start vaping now.
Pirzada: It is, at this point, very clear that vaping is not only unhealthy, but it is very dangerous. This is not, anymore, a debate. This is a proven fact that vaping is killing people.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published on September 11, 2019.
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