The Rising Epidemic: Vapes and E-Cigarettes are claiming more victims by the day

Maya Crawford, Student Update Team

Vaping has become a norm among students since the first increased interest in 2017. Kids will skip class and leave the bathroom smelling like fruit, and despite Michigan’s recent ban from the buying and selling of vapes and e-cigs, some students have kept it up by buying vapes that are designed to look like flash drives. 

Besides the act of vaping, even the topic has become discussed in day-to-day passing. It all seems like harmless fun or a better alternative to smoking, but what new research is exposing might change the perspective on vapes and e-cigarettes. 

There have already been twenty-nine deaths and nearly 1,300 lung illnesses around the United States that have been tied to vaping, the first recorded cases being in April of this year. According to ABC News, the chemicals in vapes and e-cigs can cause pneumonia-like symptoms and irreversible lung damage to users. 

Vaping is especially dangerous to teens and young adults, as the lungs are still in development at that age. Vitamin E droplets, the chemical used to thicken the liquid in vapes, has been confirmed to trigger pneumonia in the lungs when inhaled. It is still unknown whether other chemicals that are often found in vapes like THC or vegetable glycerin contribute to vape related illnesses, but nothing is ruled out because of how recently this epidemic has surfaced. This danger is so recent that most vapers have little to no idea about why this is dangerous in the first place. 

When asked about the risks of vaping, senior August Adams-Miller said, “I know that Vitamin E has been found in some THC cartridges, [but] I don’t know the scientific details of it.” 

Even after being told of the dangers, Adams-Miller said, “I know lots of things can lead to your death, like alcohol, driving. There’s risks in everything you do, obviously.” Adams-Miller does not vape anymore but has in the past. “I just grew out of it. I was a dumb sophomore and thought it was cool.”

A recent study performed on mice by Dr. Farrah Kheradmand at the Baylor College of Medicine, has revealed that the chemical properties in vapes and e-cigs cause the lungs to overproduce the fat cells that are regularly occurring in the lungs. The mice in the study were exposed to both regular cigarette smoke and e-cigarette vapor. The mice exposed to cigarette smoke developed emphysema, a condition where the lungs are damaged and enlarged, over the course of four months, which is equivalent to a few years of smoking for humans. 

The effect that vape fog had on the mice’s lungs is that the vapor caused the lungs to overproduce fat cells and enlarge the lungs to the point that they were damaged. The vapor directly affected the immune cells in the mice’s lungs and clogged them with fat, so much so that they were weakened, leading to a greater risk of lung diseases that the mice would otherwise be able to fight with little effort.

Besides clogging the immune cells with the chemical components, the physical makeup of vapes and e-cigs can cause harm. 

According to The New York Times, metal particles from the vapes’ interior are being inhaled because of the heating mechanism inside. Dr. David Christani wrote a report in the New England Journal of Medicine, in which he noted that the chemical makeup of the standard liquid in vaping could possibly create a whole new toxin altogether. Christani had documented two other cluster cases of fifty-three people who had suffered vape-related illness in the past. Nearly all patients were teenagers and healthy ones at that. The illnesses only started to surface after the patients had started vaping. 

There is little knowledge on this recent epidemic, and even less on how to cure it. Doctors and researchers recommend that the best course of action for now is to stay away from vaping in general to prevent more people from ending up in the hospital.