Perils of Vaping, the New Craze - Part III
There is indeed a vaping crisis in America and it’s time to wake up and face this new threat that is destroying the lives of our healthy teenagers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Food and Drug Administration are advising physicians to “Report cases of severe pulmonary disease of unclear etiology and a history of e-cigarette product use within the past 90 days, to your state or local health department.” Yes, this will help us to understand the extent of the problem.
Electronic cigarettes and vaping pens are not the only vaping devices on the market now. There are new camouflaged innovative devices like computer mouse, Apple-like watch and USB jump drives and even hoodies worn by men and women have hit the market, causing headache for the parents. Remember all the ingredients in these vaping devices are harmful but the added flavorants and illegal substances like THC and others are even more dangerous. So, quitting the habit altogether should be the aim.
Hopefully, young people are scared by the recent spate of hospitalizations and mounting death toll and motivated enough to quit. Barbara Sweinberg, director of our Crescent Community Free Clinic, tells me, “These kids are setting themselves for lifelong addiction. They don’t know the consequences of their actions. If you start vaping before you are 25, it rewires your brain and intensifies your addiction.” That’s serious.
Now, about quitting the habit. The first step is to cultivate a proper mindset followed by total commitment. The traditional smoking cessation methods will work if one is smoking e-cigs and pens containing primarily nicotine as in regular cigarettes. Some can quit cold turkey but others can try gradual weaning off of cigarettes. Nicotine patches and gums that deliver smaller, slower doses of nicotine may work. Also, the drug, Chantix that interferes with brain’s response to nicotine, has been quite useful.
However, some variety of e-cigs may have more nicotine than a regular cigarette and other ingredients that give the flavors, which make quitting vaping a uniquely difficult and challenging process; so, you would need professional help. Some tasty flavors include cinnamaldehyde (imparts the sweet spicy taste of cinnamon), vanillin (vanilla flavor) and benzaldehyde (for the taste of almonds). All are toxic to the body. Then there are the illicit pens that deliver marijuana products, especially THC, the powerful psychotic product that gives such a high to the smoker. Fortunately, smoking and now vaping cessation centers are available to help smokers in almost every town these days. One caveat from the councilors: “It’s very important for parents to be fully involved in the cessation program and offer their full support to their children. They must know what’s happening; then only the program will succeed.”
Recently, the American Medical Association’s House of Delegates has declared this vaping crisis an “urgent public health epidemic” and urged the FDA to take action immediately. Trump Administration and FDA are moving to remove all non-tobacco flavored e-cigarettes from the market. That’s certainly the right step but is that enough? Banning e-cigarettes altogether should be our ultimate goal. Here is an important CDC advisory: “Consider refraining from using e-cigarette products while the agency’s investigation is ongoing. And regardless of the investigation, no one should buy such products off the street or modify e-cigarette products, or add substances to them not intended by the manufacturer.” In other words, at least don’t buy illegal or black market stuff that may contain dangerous products. Our community free clinic in Spring Hill offers smoking and vaping cessation programs and I tell all my patients it’s mandatory to attend the program and be rid of this habit altogether or else be discharged from the clinic. That’s good enough incentive for patients.
In response to all these backlash from AMA, FDA and many other agencies, Juul Lab, the nation’s largest e-cigarette manufacturer has agreed to stop advertising its devices in the U.S. Governors in Michigan, New York and Massachusetts have already moved to outlaw vaping flavors, which is indeed a welcome gesture and let’s hope other states will follow suit. But ultimately our aim is to ban cigarettes of all forms and any and vaping products from the country. Is it such an impossible dream to hope for?
Thankfully, India is taking a lead to stop this epidemic. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman recently informed, “India’s cabinet has announced a ban on the production, import and sale of electronic cigarettes and all other vaping products because of their impact on the health of young people.” This is indeed welcome news.
This concludes the series on vaping and e-cigarettes.
M.P. Ravindra Nathan, M.D., is a cardiologist and Emeritus Editor of AAPI Journal. For further reading, “Second Chance - A Sister’s Act of Love” by Dr. Nathan from Outskirts Press, can be found at www.amazon.com