Vaping Can Kill You: What You Need to Know
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has urged the public to avoid e-cigarettes amid an outbreak of vaping-related deaths that started in Illinois.
As reported in CNBC, Federal health officials are examining 450 possible lung illnesses and four deaths related to vaping in 33 states.
The outbreak became a national news story on August 23, when the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) reported the death of an individual who had recently vaped and was hospitalized with a severe respiratory illness. The IDPH also said that within one week, the number of people who had used e-cigarettes or vaped had and been hospitalized with respiratory problems had doubled.
In an August 23 statement, IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said, “The severity of illness people are experiencing is alarming and we must get the word out that using e-cigarettes and vaping can be dangerous.”
On September 6, the CDC commented as well via a news briefing. Dana Meaney-Delman, who is overseeing the CDC’s examination of the lung illnesses, said, “Until we have a cause and while this investigation is ongoing, we’re recommending individuals consider not using e-cigarettes.”
The rapidly unfolding story has cast a spotlight on vaping – what it is and how it is legislated in Illinois. Here are some answers to key questions:
What is vaping?
Vaping is the act of using an e-cigarette (or similar device) to inhale an aerosol instead of tobacco. A vaping device produces an aerosol that looks like water vapor. The e-liquid typically consists of a propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin-based liquid with nicotine, flavoring, and other chemicals and metals; but the e-liquid does not contain tobacco, which has contributed to a perception that vaping is a safer alternative for smokers than cigarettes are.
Vaping among adolescents has increased in recent years, partly because of the marketing of novelty flavors and the emergence of trendy devices.
How dangerous is vaping?
The IDPH makes it clear that vaping is not safe. According to the IDPH website, “These products are not safe for youth, young adults, pregnant women, or adults who do not currently use tobacco products. The aerosol created by e-cigarettes can contain ingredients that are harmful and potentially harmful to the public’s health.”
E-cigarettes contain many harmful and potentially harmful ingredients, such as nicotine, additives such as diacetyl (a chemical linked to serious lung disease), and heavy metals such as nickel and lead.
The recent death of an Illinois resident and the spike in hospitalizations due to vaping reported by the IDPH underscores the dangers of vaping.
What does Illinois law say about vaping?
In Illinois, you must be 21 or older to buy tobacco and e-cigarette products, according to a new state law that took effect July 1. It is illegal to sell or furnish tobacco products, electronic cigarettes, or alternative nicotine products to a person under 21 years of age. It’s also illegal for anyone under 21 years of age to purchase tobacco products, electronic cigarettes, or alternative nicotine products.
Why has there been a spike in vaping-related hospitalizations?
No clear answer has emerged. Patients have ranged in age from 17 to 38, according to the IDPH. As reported in The New York Times, “State investigators have not found a common link — other than vaping in general — among the patients turning up in emergency rooms.”
Meanwhile, David Christiani of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health wrote in The New England Journal of Medicine September 6, “Although more investigation is needed to determine the vaping agent or agents responsible, there is clearly an epidemic that begs for an urgent response . . . Until the investigation into the cause of this epidemic of vaping-induced respiratory injury is complete, no conclusions can be drawn as to which compound or compounds are the causes of injury. In light of these cases, however, efforts should be made to increase public awareness of the harmful effect of vaping, and physicians should discourage their patients from vaping.”
If I suspect I’ve been harmed by vaping, do I have any legal recourse?
It’s best to discuss your situation with a qualified attorney as vaping is a rapidly evolving issue. An Illinois teen recently filed a class-action lawsuit that claimed e-cigarette and tobacco companies are to blame for his nicotine addiction; the case was dropped. A similar case was recently filed by an Indiana family. One thing is clear: it’s illegal to buy or sell vaping products to anyone under 21.
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