According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in 2018 more than 3.6 million middle and high school students were current users of e-cigarettes, and from 2017 to 2018, e-cigarette use increased by 78% among high school students.
The delivery and method of consumption for nicotine has been modernized, but the immediate dangers have, in many ways, become worse than ever before.
Today, the consumption of nicotine mainly consists of the use of e-liquids -- mainstream delivery gadgets include vapes, vaporizers, vape pens, hookah pens, electronic cigarettes and e-pipes. These are manufactured to resemble standard cigarettes, cigars and pipes, but many also resemble pens or USB flash drives. E-cigarettes are packaged to appeal to teens with popular “e-liquid” flavors such as razzle dazzle, cheap thrill, cowboy cooler, summer solstice, so berry good and more.
Risks such as lung injury are greater than ever before because e-liquid products not only contain nicotine, but also other harmful ingredients. Vitamin E acetate is used as an additive or thickening agent in these products and, thus far, is thought to be the primary cause of serious lung injury. When this chemical is aerosolized and penetrates lung tissue by inhalation, it is sticky. Its adherence to the lung tissue is thought to cause injury and interfere with lung function.
Cases of vaping-related lung injuries peaked in September 2019 and are still occurring. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as of November 2019, 2,172 vaping-related injuries and 42 deaths were reported in the U.S.
Signs and symptoms of vaping-related lung injury may develop over a few days and can include, but not limited to: cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, abdominal pain, fever, chills, nausea, diarrhea and weight loss. If you experience an emergency, do not hesitate consult your primary care physician or dial 9-1-1.
Avoid the dangers of nicotine use and vaping-related injuries by avoiding them altogether and lead by example. Now that this is the most openly used form of tobacco among teens, create an open dialogue with your children and always ask questions. For more information, consult with your primary care provider and consider sources such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the FDA and CDC websites.
by Dr. Geetanjali Srivastava
Medical Director, Emergency Department
Valley Children’s Healthcare
This article originally appeared in the January 2020 edition of Central California Parent Magazine.