Vaping suspected of causing severe lung damage

Vaping is in the news… again… (i.e. you should quit vaping, and we’re here to help!)

There are endless options for what you might want to do with the end of your summer (End? How is it August already?!), but spending several weeks in the hospital with a severe lung disease probably isn’t high on your list. For some teenagers in Wisconsin, that was, unfortunately, the case in the last month. The cause? While it hasn’t been definitively determined, the Department of Health Services (DHS) says that the commonality amongst the teens was that they had all been vaping in the time leading up to their hospitalization. As of August 2, 2019, DHS is aware of 11 confirmed cases. Seven other cases are under further investigation. Their symptoms included fevers, chest pain that worsened with breathing, nausea, diarrhea, and diminished appetite, and some of them needed to be on breathing machines while they were sick. While all of them have recovered, we don’t know what the long-term effects could be from these incidents.

The bottom line is that we still don’t know the downstream effects of vaping, even from the nicotine-free forms. The companies that sell e-cigarettes like to tell us that their products are safe, but given that they are the ones making money on sales, there is no incentive for them to conduct the necessary research (you can read about the Congressional Hearings regarding Juul from last week to know that these companies definitely don’t have the best interest of the consumer in mind. Juul reps even went into schools!) However, someone is studying these products; the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has noted that these products are not safe in teenagers and young adults. Some experts say that they are at risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is a disease most typically associated with elderly individuals who have been smoking cigarettes for many years.

If you are already vaping and have had any of these more urgent symptoms (shortness of breath, fevers, chest pain when you breathe), you should see your healthcare provider or go to an urgent care facility. If you’re reading this information and feeling like you want to quit vaping but aren’t sure how to start, we’ve got you covered.

  • Know the facts: You’re not alone in wanting to quit, and there are good reasons to. Research shows that teens who use e-cigarettes with nicotine are more likely to transition to using regular cigarettes.  Plus, if you are using products that contain nicotine, know that it might contain substantially more nicotine than cigarettes.  Nicotine is the addictive component of these products, but it isn’t the scariest! There are many other things inside e-cigarettes that are either unstudied or known to be harmful.
  • Get a partner: whether that is a friend, a parent, or your healthcare provider, someone should know your plan and be able to support you as you start the process of quitting.
  • Make a plan for what you’re going to do if you feel the urge to vape: exercise, chew gum, drink water, or have a dance party. Comment below if you have any other ideas for things to do!
  • Get acquainted with your resources:
    • BecomeAnEX” is a text program developed in collaboration with Mayo Clinic, and has been shown to quadruple a tobacco user’s chance of quitting
    • The Truth Initiative is a non-profit committed to making cigarette use a thing of the past. They have great resources, including a texting program and an active social network
    • You can always ask your healthcare provider for additional help. That’s what we are here for!
  • Keep going, even when you slip up. Quitting any addictive substance is hard, and often takes more than one try. The Truth Initiative recommends that if you vape after your quit date, you should take time to think about why, and whether any of the stressors that triggered you to vape again can be removed from your life.
  • Celebrate your successes: whether it’s a day, week, month, or year without vaping, you are doing great work to protect your lungs!

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