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Vaping Crisis Continues

by Maria Martin

The vaping crisis in America continues to perpetuate with new developments, adding to the confusion surrounding the implications of use of electronic vaporizing products.

First reports of complications associated with vaping started in August as doctors began linking mysterious lung injuries to the use of electronic vaporizer oils. Since the first connection between lung injury and vape products, 806 people have been hospitalized under similar conditions, including eight fatalities. Patients reported symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, vomiting, coughing, fever, and shortness of breath. The cause behind the lung injuries is still under investigation.

Electronic vaporizers and e-cigarettes have been around for years, so questions as to why these lung conditions are occurring now are being raised. One theory is that new ingredients have been added to vaping products which set off a dangerous, if not lethal, reaction when inhaled into the lungs, while a second theory supports the idea that these lung conditions have always existed and are just now being linked to electronic vaporizer products. Most research, however, has been inconclusive.

Researchers’ most credible lead is a connection to illegal THC cartridges, as they contain unknown chemicals and substances. Of 514 patients, 77% have admitted to using THC-containing products, while 36% reported exclusive use of THC-containing products according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Industry experts claim that black-market manufactures purchase unfilled cartridges from Chinese factories that follow Instagram accounts of well-known brands, then fill them with THC oil or other mixtures and package them for sale.

Despite this possible revelation, researchers still caution against use of e-cigarettes or electronic vaporizers which utilize legal nicotine products. Johns Hopkins Medicine Center categorizes Nicotine as a toxic substance as it raises blood pressure and spikes adrenaline, increasing the heart rate and the likelihood of a heart attack.

To combat the growing public health crisis, several actions have taken place. Following reports of high use among young adults, the Trump administration and several state governments are considering a ban on all flavored vaping products. The governor of Massachusetts has issued a four-month ban on the sale of all vaping products, and Rhode Island, Michigan, and New York have banned most flavored vaping oils. Several television networks have discontinued advertisements for Juul, the electronic cigarette company which dominates the market.

Kevin Burns, the CEO of Juul, has stepped down, creating uncertainty for the e-cigarette manufacturer’s future. Walmart has said the superstore chain would halt all sales of e-cigarettes.

The University of Pittsburgh’s tobacco use policy on electronic cigarettes will remain the same pending new legislation.

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