Vaping is taking over the nation in a dangerous way. In recent years, we’ve witnessed people of all ages inhaling out of battery-powered cartridges called vape pens, or e-cigarettes, instead of cigarettes. Why? Many feel that since there is no burning of tobacco in an e-cigarette, it is a safer, healthier alternative.
What health professionals and the nation is learning is that this habit is a very dangerous alternative. Inhaling from a vape pen means inhaling nicotine, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or other cannabinoid compounds. In many cases, those who vape are also adding flavors to their cartridges in an attempt to make the vapor taste better. Additives to vape pens can make the habit even more dangerous.
CBS News reported in September 2019 that U.S. health officials investigated more than 450 cases of possible vaping-related illnesses in 33 states. One of the most notable vaping-related illnesses is bronchiolitis obliterans, more commonly known as “popcorn lung.”
How Vaping Causes Popcorn Lung
If you or someone you know vapes regularly, it is important to be aware of the symptoms of popcorn lung and what it means for your future. Here are some fast facts:
- It is called popcorn lung because it contains a chemical called Diacetyl. Diacetyl is commonly-used to give butter-like flavor to food products popcorn.
- Diacetyl is present in 75% of flavored vape pens.
- Popcorn lung is a severe, irreversible lung disease that scars the tiny air sacs in the lungs, creating a thicker and narrower airway.
- Symptoms of popcorn lung include shortness of breath, chest pain, gastrointestinal issues, coughing and wheezing.
- The American Lung Association shares that “even though we know that diacetyl causes popcorn lung, this chemical is found in many e-cigarette flavors. It is added to ‘e-juice’ liquid by some e-cigarette companies to complement flavorings such as vanilla, maple, coconut and more.”
- Salon also reported in 2018, “some of the chemicals used to add flavor to vaping are billed by manufacturers as safe because the FDA has approved them for ingestion. Yet no one knows for sure if you can breathe the same chemicals safely, and many chemicals approved for ingestion become toxic after combustion.”
Is Any Action Being Taken by Health Officials?
Yes and no. Most recently, the FDA issued a warning letter to JUUL, the e-cigarette company that packages its e-cigarettes with nicotine salts from leaf tobacco into one-time-use cartridges. The FDA threatened to fine and seize JUUL’s products for being illegally marketed as a safer alternative to cigarettes.
FDA rules require a company to receive regulatory approval before marketing these modern-day tobacco products as being less harmful than traditional tobacco products. CNBC noted that JUUL has never submitted any of its vaping products for review by the FDA, making its marketing illegal. In fact, JUUL’s nicotine concentration has been found to quickly addict people to its vaping device.
The scariest part about all of this may be that JUUL, and other vaping product companies, heavily target teenagers and young adults as their main consumer demographic. Parents are concerned about their children purchasing these products and even more so about them purchasing flavor cartridges or other additives off the streets.
The heightened fear of developing popcorn lung and other mysterious, pulmonary-related diseases has created a movement among teenagers to share their own personal vaping horror stories. In their efforts to get other young people to quit the dangerous habit of vaping, severe anxiety, troubled addiction and even death are just a few examples of the stories being told.
While no permanent action has been taken against vaping product companies, the FDA has also launched an investigation into whether these companies have withheld any pertinent information from Congress.
The bottom line here is that vaping is a dangerous habit that can lead to severe and sometimes deadly lung diseases. It has not been proven as a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes.
You can educate yourself and your loved ones on the dangers of all smoking habits when you read our guide about “Reversing the Harmful Effects of Smoking.” If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of a vape or cigarette-related lung illness, contact your healthcare professional.