The Cloud around Vaping: New Cases of Lung Disease Stimulate Discussion

Sydney Brummel – Staff Writer

For the past several weeks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration have been investigating the increasing number of lung illness cases linked to the use of e-cigarette products. The CDC has reported at least 530 illnesses and seven deaths throughout the United States.

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In recent years, vaping and various types of e-cigarettes have become popular and are widely used, especially among teenagers. In 2018, the CDC reported that 3.6 million U.S. youths use e-cigarettes.

“That’s when the CDC declared a health emergency, because they saw so many pick it up from age twelve and higher,” Director of Student Health and Counseling Beth Baas said.

“Vaping initially started as a way for cigarette-smokers to give up smoking cigarettes,” said Baas. However, research has shown that very few people use e-cigarettes to stop smoking but simply become smokers of both products.

The overall history of vaping is questionable, even before the recent outbreak of lung disease. The e-cigarette company that has been receiving some of the highest media attention, JUUL, formerly advertised that their products did not contain nicotine, the chemical that causes a smoker’s addiction. However, the CDC reported that just a single JUUL pod contains the equivalent of the nicotine found in a whole pack of cigarettes.

It was not until May of 2019 that the FDA required e-cigarette producers to list all their ingredients. In November, companies will have to list their potentially harmful contents.

By advertising familiar flavors, such as grape or cherry, vaping companies have successfully attracted many underage customers. As of the last couple of weeks, Florida and Michigan have banned such flavored vapes. The states’ goal in doing so is to remove the temptation for minors to buy e-cigarettes in the first place.

Baas stated that the greatest concern regarding these products is that the brains of adolescents and young adults “are more susceptible to [nicotine] addiction…They don’t know what all the effects of [vaping] are over the lifespan. So those people that vape in this generation are going to be the ‘experiment’ of the long-term effects of it.” The public remains unaware of what potentially harmful substances that e-cigarette products may contain and cases of lung disease are the first visible side effects of vaping.

Major superstores and vendors are just beginning to respond to the vaping crisis. On September 20, Wal-Mart announced that it will no longer sell any vaping products.

Regardless of what students may believe concerning vaping, Dordt’s policy concerning the activity remains firm.

“We don’t allow it on campus at all, just like smoking,” said Robert Taylor, Dean of Students. Despite the unpopularity of the policy, Dordt adopted the ban on vaping for student wellness.

“It looked like a high-risk activity,” said Taylor. “We want our students to be healthy, and so anytime we are aware of something that’s potentially harmful or definitely harmful, we want to talk about it.”

While Dordt does not allow vaping on campus, students have varying opinions on the matter.

“Although I don’t vape, I have many friends who do,” said sophomore Lauren Hoekstra. “I think that people should be allowed to make their own choices, and the government should have more of a hands-off approach.”

Sophomore Jake Thorsteinson has a different take. “I think that Dordt’s policy is good. Nicotine in young people is not what we need more of nowadays.”

For more information about vaping, its effects, and the steps to quitting, consult the Student Health and Counseling Center’s Wellness Resources on the DUC webpage.

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