(This article was submitted as an editorial co-signed by Bob Copple, President of Ascension Via Christi Hospital in Manhattan; and Mark Duff, MD, Pediatrician and Ascension Via Christi Hospital in Manhattan Board Chair.)
Vaping – the use of electronic cigarettes to inhale vapors that could contain substances such as nicotine, marijuana or flavoring – is a disconcerting habit gaining popularity across the country, especially among teenagers. From 2017 to 2018, over 3.6 million kids reported using e-cigarettes, which represents a 78 percent increase in adolescent vaping in only one year. Even more frightening is that e-cigarette use among middle school students jumped by 48 percent in the same period.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have reported more than 1,600 cases of severe lung injury in 49 states – including 34 deaths – associated with e-cigarettes. Two of those deaths were right here in Kansas. In Kansas, smoking has led to $1.12 billion in smoking-caused healthcare costs each year.
We must address this important issue before it becomes even worse. Early use of substances such as nicotine and marijuana are especially harmful to developing brains and could lead to additional substance use disorder later in life.
Some may argue that vaping is one method in helping smokers transition away from carcinogenic tobacco. However, vaping has introduced nicotine into the lives of millions of children who otherwise may have been unaffected, mostly due to misinformation around the perceived safety of this format of consuming nicotine.
To put the toxicity of vaping products into perspective, a single popular vaping product sold widely across the U.S. contains the same amount of nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes. E-cigarette brands claim that their products are a safer option than traditional cigarettes. Because of youth-centric marketing campaigns and fruit-flavored product offerings like mango and cucumber, organizations pinpoint these companies as a key reason for the recent surge in teen tobacco use.
We must work together to continue to raise awareness of the dangers of vaping. As healthcare providers, legislators, educators and parents, if we can encourage cessation, delay the purchase of tobacco products and underscore prevention early on, our young generation of Americans will face healthier futures.