Lately the news is filled with reports illnesses related to e-cigarettes and vaping.
Several deaths and hundreds of patients with potentially severe lung disease have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Five potential cases are being investigated in Alabama by the Alabama Department of Public Health.
Dr. Cory Luckie with Ivy Creek Family Healthcare in Millbrook and Holtville hasn’t seen the severe cases other medical practitioners are seeing but believes there is cause for concern.
“I see a lot of people doing it,” Luckie said. “I have not seen a lot of sickness related to it, but it’s new. We don’t know what the long-term effects are.”
The CDC said the lung illnesses are likely from exposure to chemicals used in e-cigarettes or vaping. No specific product or substance has been linked to all cases although some users reported using products containing THC, the high-inducing substance in marijuana. Luckie said what the fluid substances are made of is the issue.
“The biggest problem is we don’t know what is in a lot of these products,” Luckie said. “Cigarettes, the only flavor they can make is menthol. Whereas with the e-cigarette products, they make what they want to make. They can make flavors. Guess who wants flavors? Kids, young teens.”
The CDC is looking into what these chemicals are doing to the body as the organization does not believe the lung disease being reported is caused by nature.
“No evidence of infectious diseases has been identified in these patients, therefore lung illnesses are likely associated with a chemical exposure,” the CDC said in a release. “However, it is too early to pinpoint a single product or substance common to all cases.”
Luckie thinks the lung diseases seen across the country believed to be related to vaping is the body’s reaction to unknown ingredients in the e-cigarettes.
“Basically you inhale the smoke and your body has some reaction to the chemicals in it,” Luckie said. “It could be lead, arsenic; we don’t even know what all is in it. It recruits cells to your lungs to gobble up this chemicals. Basically your body is attacking these chemicals that are foreign to us and causing this destruction, almost like an auto-immune problem.”
Luckie thinks the e-cigarette industry is possibly recruiting customers especially among teenagers.
“I think they may see it’s not a cigarette and think it’s safe and cool,” Luckie said. “In one study I looked at, one in five high school students have tried e-cigarettes. That is staggeringly high.”
Luckie doesn’t think teenagers realize the long-term effects of the trending fad.
“People at that age just don’t have perspective,” he said. “If they would just stop and think. Nicotine is one of — the if not the most — addictive substances we have access to. Using these things can lead to years and years of use. It is like a freight train — it doesn’t stop. If they could take a second to think about what they are doing.”
Luckie is fearful the e-cigarette, vaping trend will lead to even more issues down the road.
“We have worked so hard to hit back at the tobacco companies to show cigarettes and nicotine are harmful,” Luckie said. “Nicotine can affect the developing brain. I feel these e-cigarettes are going to be a gateway to other forms of smoking. It is going to be easy for kids to accept smoking in their mouth that they will move over to normal combustible tobacco products. I believe these e-cigarettes are going to normalize smoking again.”
Luckie said parents are the key to stopping the problem but the adults will have overcome a fear.
“The problem is that parents don’t want to talk about so kids get closed off to their parents about it,” Luckie said. “Whereas if parents were more open, willing to talk about sensitive things, we could stop a lot of this.”