Experts raise the alert on vaping products

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A November report from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shared some alarming news for Hoosiers- Indiana is leading the nation in deaths from vaping-related illnesses. According to the CDC, 42 deaths across 24 states and the District of Columbia have occurred as a result of lung injuries from vaping, four of these in Indiana. The same report states that as of Nov. 2019, there were 2,172 confirmed lung injury cases associated with vaping.

"I think people are finally waking up and realizing this habit isn't safe," Deborah Spoerner, a clinical assistant professor in the School of Nursing in Purdue's College of Health and Human Sciences said. "The problem is they're already addicted."

The use of vaping products and has skyrocketed in recent years among youths, she added. It is estimated that 5.3 million youths are using vaping products, and 1 million use these daily. Spoerner, along with Azza Ahmed, associate professor in the School of Nursing, recently released A Purdue Extension publication about the dangers of vaping and are utilizing the state-wide reach of Extension to spread educational material about the harmful habit.

"In many cases, teens don't realize they're vaping nicotine. And there is a lot of nicotine in most e-cigarette or vaping pods," Spoerner continued. "Many of the flavors are designed specifically to appeal to kids, from bubblegum to mint flavors. The industry needs regulation to make it safer and limit its impact on youths."

Vaping products are also dangerous because they aren't federally regulated and there has been little research about their impact on the respiratory system or the rest of the body. One of the ingredients in the liquid used to vape, diacetyl, has been linked to lung , causing what is known as "popcorn lung," a thickening and narrowing of the airways. In a report published by Environmental Health Perspectives, 51 liquids were tested for diacetyl and it was found in 39 of them. Vitamin E acetate, found in many of the , has also been linked to lung injuries, Spoerner said.

While anyone is susceptible to lung damage and other health problems from vaping, youths are especially vulnerable. Parents often don't know their children are vaping because devices are easy to hide and residue doesn't cling to hair, hands and clothes like smoke from traditional cigarettes. Many teens aren't aware of the dangers of vaping and Spoerner recommended three methods parents can use to broach the subject with their children:

  • Explain that vaping is not harmless, Spoerner said. Even show them statistics reported by the CDC regarding vaping deaths and injuries.
  • Share testimonials from those who have suffered injuries due to vaping. "Testimonials are extremely effective, we learned that during the age of anti-smoking campaigns," Spoerner explained. "Even having an individual come and talk to a group of students in person can have a profound impact."
  • Role playing is another tactic that has proved useful. Whether it's for , alcohol, cigarettes or vaping products, practicing repeatedly how to say no has been shown to have a positive effect.

In addition to battling vaping on the home front, Spoerner said, federal and state regulations are needed to protect all individuals, especially youths, from the harmful effects of .

"We now have a new generation addicted to nicotine," Spoerner warned.

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