Although “vaping” and e-cigarettes have only been around since 2007, the potential long-term impact they may have on teens and young adults is raising concern among health care professionals, including Highland County Health Commissioner Jared Warner.
Warner spoke recently before an assembly at Fairfield High School in Leesburg, sharing with students the latest information on the health impacts of vaping.
“The public health field has been watching vaping very closely, partly because it’s such a new thing,” he said. “It’s only been around for a little over 10 years and has really been marketed as a safe alternative to regular cigarettes.”
The arrival of the e-cigarette brand JUUL arrived in the marketplace four years ago, Warner said, and has literally exploded in popularity among teenagers and young adults, with the major concern being the concentration of nicotine in the vaping liquid.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, nicotine is defined as a “poisonous alkaloid that is the chief active principle of tobacco and is used as an insecticide.” The MedicineNet website added that it “caused increased heart rate, heart stroke volume, and oxygen consumption by the heart muscle, as well as triggered feelings of euphoria, increased alertness, and a sense of relaxation, as well as being powerfully addictive.”
“With all the science that is out there, there’s no question that nicotine is bad for you,” Warner said. “It’s especially harmful for brain development in people 25 years of age and younger, so when we see high school students vaping it’s directly impacting their ability to solve problems, make decisions and the overall continuing development of their brain.”
The correlation between smoking and its dangerous impact on health was first published in a January 1964 report from Surgeon General Luther Terry, with the Centers for Disease Control noting the document concluded that smoking caused lung cancer and laryngeal cancer in men, was a probable cause of lung cancer in women, and was the most important cause of chronic bronchitis.
Medical experts universally agree that nicotine is highly addictive. They go on to state in the January 2019 issue of Medical News Today that although most experts agree that nicotine does not directly cause cancer, some research suggests that nicotine may lead to a type of DNA damage that increases the risk of cancer.
While there exists more than a half-century of data proving the dangers of tobacco use, Warner said because it’s so new, there isn’t a high perception of risk associated with e-cigarettes and vaping.
“They don’t see this as being as dangerous as smoking or chewing tobacco,” he said. “We know what tobacco does to a smoker over the course of 30 or 40 years, but e-cigarettes have only been around for a little over 10 years, so we don’t have a really great medical understanding of what this will look like, say in the next 20 years.”
At his presentation at Fairfield High School, he raised several concerns that he has both from a health care and parental standpoint, including a study of 2,000 students in California that found those who vaped were twice as likely to move on to cigarettes.
Cost and addictive qualities notwithstanding, Warner pointed out that one standard JUUL pod contains as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes, that chemicals and metals found in vapes can cause damage to lung tissue, and that vaping in itself can produce acrylonitrile and acrolein, both known carcinogens.
“We know it’s addictive, and this is the stage of their lives where they’re getting ready to graduate from high school,” he said. “This is the worst time of their lives to tie themselves down to an addictive substance when they’re leaving for college, the military or their first job.”
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.