Teen vaping hits close to home
As my son sits across from me with his head over a bowl of cereal, I reluctantly bring up the subject of vaping. I know he does this (vaping), and he knows I hate it. It’s a conversation we’ve had numerous times, but often leaves both of us feeling misunderstood.
When I ask him what he thinks of the latest news about people getting sick? He insists that it must be because they don’t clean the vape or that they are getting them from some sketchy places. The truth is, I tell him, is we really don’t know. He shrugs as if he is, of course, an invincible 18-year-old. I too shrug, defeated.
As a Health Educator, how could I have lost my own child to the Big Tobacco Industry? Despite all the parenting efforts I put in trying to help him avoid making such risky decisions, it continues to plague my family and many other parents of teens. With the trend being labeled an epidemic by the US Surgeon General, and with my experience in classrooms talking to hundreds of young people, I know we have a fight on our hands trying to teach students the dangers of this epidemic- they truly think it is harmless! Unfortunately, our children are the tobacco industry’s second generation of lab rats and it is affecting even the most health conscious families, as it (vaping) is touted as a safe alternative to smoking.
What we know so far.
As of Oct. 8, 2019, 49 states, the District of Columbia, and 1 U.S territory have reported
approximately 1,299 cases of severe lung disease associated with the use of e-cigarettes.
• 26 deaths have been confirmed in 21 states: Alabama, California (2), Connecticut, Delaware,
Florida, Georgia (2), Illinois, Indiana, Kansas (2), Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, New Jersey, Oregon (2), Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia.
• Center for Disease Control (CDC) has received complete sex and age data on 1,043 cases: 70% of cases are male; median age of patients is 24 years and ranges from 13-75 years. 80% of patients are under 35 years old, making this a teen and adult problem.
• More cases are expected as CDC and FDA advisories are encouraging the medical community to report suspected cases.
What do all these cases have in common?
All confirmed cases have a reported history of e-cigarette product use.
• The latest findings from the investigation into lung injuries associated with e-cigarette use, or
vaping suggests products containing THC plat a role in the outbreak.
• Of the 573 patients with information on substances used in e-cigarette, or vaping, products
in the 3 months prior to symptom onset; about 76% reported using THC-containing products;
32% reported exclusive use of THC-containing products; about 58% reported using nicotine containing products; 13% reported exclusive use of nicotine-containing products.
• Suspected cause is a chemical exposure, though the specific chemical exposure(s) remains
• No single product or substance has been linked to all lung injury cases. More information is
needed to know whether a single product, substance, brand, or method of use is responsible for the outbreak.
What are the signs and symptoms that happen?
Among the cases, three major groups of symptoms have been associated with this outbreak:
1. Chest symptoms appear to occur over several days to several weeks and includes:
• Chest pain
• Shortness of breath
2. Abdominal symptoms preceding chest symptoms and includes:
3. Other symptoms include:
• Increased heart rate (tachycardia)
• Fever and/or chills
What can parents and youth do?
• STOP/DO NOT USE E-CIGARETTE/ JUUL PRODUCTS UNTIL THE EPIDEMIC IS OVER
• It’s important to communicate to your children about the dangers of vaping-associated lung
injury. Visit these websites for tips on starting the conversation.
o How to talk with your kids about vaping
o Surgeon General: Parent tip sheet on e-cigarettes
• If you use e-cigarette products, or your child vapes, and you experience or notice any of the
symptoms described above, seek medical care immediately.
• Regardless of the ongoing investigation:
o Youth and young adults should not use e-cigarette products
o Women who are pregnant should not use e-cigarette products.
o If you do use e-cigarette products, you should not buy street products (for example, e-cigarette products with THC or other cannabinoids).
o You should not modify e-cigarette products or add any substances to these products that are not intended by the manufacturer.
o Adult smokers who are attempting to quit tobacco products should use evidence-based treatments, including counseling and FDA-approved medications; see CDC: Ways to Quit
Smoking. If you need help quitting tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, contact your doctor
or another medical provider.
Steele County Public Health and Steele County Safe and Drug Free Schools has partnered to provide creative and interactive outreach education programs to any organization, business, church or school that is interested. We can provide presentations no matter the size or demographics. Please contact me at Steele County Public Health at 507-444-7650 if interested.
Andrea Marshall is a health educator and substance abuse prevention specialist with Steele County Public Health in Owatonna. Steele Talkin’ is a regular column featuring authors representing various organizations around Steele County.