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Up in Smoke: vaping bans and health concerns

Vaping has become a health issue in the weeks following bans of flavored e-cigarettes in New York and temporarily in Massachusetts. 


This new concern comes from illnesses related to vaping, which have seen a sharp rise this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One chart displays the steep rise in hospital admissions from e-cigarette use beginning to climb in late July.  

The illnesses from e-cigarettes have caused lung injury and death in more severe cases.


“It’s a combination of a few things,” Karen Kennedy of Trustbridge Health in Florida said.


“What is being found out is that some of the chemicals that are being put into these cigarettes, that are used for flavoring, is what’s causing different types of reactions in their lungs. Some of them are irritants that make it look like you have asthma, where you can’t take in oxygen very well. It makes it difficult to breathe.” 


The damage vaping can cause can seriously harm vital organs.


“There’s a next level where it causes damage to their lungs,”Kennedy continued.  “They are calling it popcorn lungs. They begin to stretch, unable to pull air in. Your lungs expand, and it pushes the air out, the lungs contract. It loses that elasticity to be able to contract them out. It is comparable to emphysema.”


Kennedy also mentioned the effects of THC in marijuana type e-cigarettes. 


“THC has a significant amount of tar in it. Even if you smoke a marijuana variant of it rather than regular cigarettes, you’re more likely to get lung cancer. I don’t think we have them here, but in other states they do have them.” 


Anthony Abdo is a manager for Levels Smoke Shop, a vaping store in West Palm Beach, Florida. He explained the vaping problem from the perspective of someone who sells vaping products. 


“What they report in the news is speaking to illegal, illicit, black market THC vape carts, marijuana vape carts, that are not available to everybody in states like Florida and Michigan,” Abdo said. “In states that marijuana is not legalized, there are markets for these illicit vape cartridges, and that is absolutely, 100% the cause of these people’s deaths.” 


Abdo maintains that his store and many like it across the country are “absolutely” in favor of regulations provided by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 


“If vape stores and those that supply are doing their due diligence, then what we have here, like our vape juice, is already FDA regulated. It must be made in a clean room with no contaminants.”

 

William Ciano has been vaping for two years to try to quit smoking.


“I feel as though if it’s bad for us, it should be banned,” Ciano said. “Then again, smoking is bad for us and they won’t ban that, so it’s kind of a contradiction. If they would ban vaping, they would go ahead and ban tobacco altogether.” 


Ciano does not think extreme measures are the answer but that drug legislation has room to improve.


“The legalization of everything would pretty much be anarchy,” Ciano said. “It hasn’t worked in other countries like Spain or Mexico. However, we should decriminalize certain things because it doesn’t make any sense to have certain things like marijuana be classified as a class-one narcotic.”


Abdo, Ciano and Kennedy all agree that rather than outright banning flavored e-cigarettes or vaping in general, states should implement stronger and safer regulations. 


“The officials will have to recognize that the e-liquids are not the problem. It’s the accessibility and the availability that is the problem,” Abdo said. “The same way that alcohol is regulated so that you must present your ID to prove you are 21 or over, that’s what should happen to the vape industry.” 


But there’s another problem that Kennedy noticed: Like cigarettes, vape products are available in many different places. Someone could go to the corner store and purchase them. Kennedy said a possible solution is to take all the products that are age-restricted and put them in age-restricted retail spaces.


By Benjamin Wainer

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