Vape Mayhem


I literally do not know how to keep you up with all of the recent head-spinning news about vaping. For the past couple of years, I have been a broken record of warnings on this topic. Oh how I wish I had been wrong. Because there’s so much we all need to wrap our brains around at the moment, the biggest article in this month’s newsletter is a long bullet-pointed list meant to cover the topic from every direction.

  • In case you don’t already know, vaping = e-cigarette smoking = Juuling.

    • Vaping is a version of smoking with no smoke. A battery heats liquid or wax (packed with all sorts of substances, from nicotine to THC), forming a vapor.

    • An electronic cigarette, AKA e-cig, is another name for a vape device. In medical worlds these are called ENDS, short for Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems.

    • Juul is the dominant company making and selling vape devices, and also credited with marketing fruit- and candy-flavored vapes to kids. Juul is so popular that it has become synonymous with the device, as in: That guy surrounded by a giant plume of vapor is Juuling.

  • Vaping is on the rise. According to the CDC, the numbers are staggering. And these are 2018 numbers, by the way. The 2019 numbers are even higher: 

    • Nearly 1 of every 20 middle school students (4.9%) reported in 2018 that they used electronic cigarettes in the past 30 days—an increase from 0.6% in 2011

    • Nearly 1 of every 5 high school students (20.8%) reported in 2018 that they used electronic cigarettes in the past 30 days—an increase from 1.5% in 2011.

    • Recent stats show a quarter of U.S. high school students have vaped within the last month, up 20% from a year ago

    • Overall use is up much more, with a 78% increase in kids reporting they have ever vaped

  • Vaping kills. To date, six people have died as a result of vaping and 450 have been hospitalized, several in ICUs on ventilators. While there are certainly pockets of illness, the deaths have been scattered across the country. No one knows precisely what component of the vape is causing lung damage, and the types of injuries have varied (here are some pictures for the medically-inclined folks). However, this much we know:

    • No one in the group identified has an infection (like pneumonia) explaining the illness

    • Everyone in the group has vaped recently

    • A large majority (estimated around 80%) have vaped THC, but not all

    • Illnesses are affecting both teens and adults

    • Vape liquid (often called vape juice) and wax used in some vape devices contain a slew of chemicals that can cause harm — these are all being investigated

    • Last week, New York State health officials implicated vitamin E acetate as a possible cause of the illness, but investigations here are just beginning, so this may - or may not - be to blame

  • Kids vape because of the flavors. This idea has circulated for months now (and it’s pretty much a no-duh), but finally there’s a study to prove it. 

    • Almost a third of all adult vapers say they started thanks to flavors

    • Twice as many 18 - 24 year olds (compared with 35 - 44 year olds) say flavors are why they started

  • E-cigs may have been designed to help cigarette smokers quit, but they are even more successful at getting non-smokers to start.

    • Vape manufacturers have sworn for years that their products are designed to help traditional cigarette smokers quit. But young people who have never smoked cigarettes are more likely to start after vaping. 

    • There are lots of great stats in this link from the Truth Initiative

  • The FDA keeps flubbing its opportunity to do something about this epidemic. As a result, states and individuals have taken things into their own hands. 

    • Yes, Juul has been investigated for its practice of marketing directly to kids. But with no teeth and to very little end. Plus, the company has apparently sent reps into schools to give health talks, and those reps have said things like: vaping is much safer than cigarettes. (more here

    • Last week, Michigan became the first state to ban flavored vapes. 

    • Several states have raised the legal age of nicotine purchase to 21. 

    • Michael Bloomberg is putting $160 million into this fight, aiming to educate parents and kids 

    • And just this week, the Trump administration says it’s taking action on the federal level

Want to do something? Start by talking. Ask your kids about vaping. Ask your kids’ school about vaping policies. Educate yourself. Most importantly, do all of this with empathy. Because if you have a child who is addicted to nicotine and you come out swinging, the communication shuts down. This stuff is seriously potent. Have a dialogue, not to mention some sensitivity if big tobacco already has your kid in its grasp.