Va­p­ing is on the rise; risks aren’t known

The Tribune (SLO) - - Classifieds - BY EVE GLAZIER, M.D., and EL­IZ­A­BETH KO, M.D. Eve Glazier, M.D., MBA, is an in­ternist and as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of medicine at UCLA Health. El­iz­a­beth Ko, M.D., is an in­ternist and as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of medicine at UCLA Health. Send your ques­tions to ask­the

Dear Doc­tor: My grand­son is al­ways car­ry­ing around a lit­tle de­vice that he smokes like a cig­a­rette. It puffs smoke just like one, too. I’m a former smoker, and my lungs aren’t in great shape, so I’m wor­ried. What is he us­ing? Is it safe?

Dear Reader: Your grand­son is va­p­ing, in­hal­ing an aerosol pro­duced by the de­vice. It’s that aerosol, or va­por, that gives the prac­tice its name.

E-cig­a­rettes were the van­guard of va­p­ing de­vices and first ap­peared in this coun­try in 2007. They quickly gave way to vape pens, slim de­vices that re­sem­ble a ball­point pen. Larger and bulkier in size are vape mods, or mod­i­fied vape pens. These are known for abun­dant va­por pro­duc­tion. More re­cent to the marketplace is the JUUL, a small va­p­ing de­vice about the size of a USB drive.

What­ever the de­vice, most use dis­pos­able pods or car­tridges that hold a liq­uid, typ­i­cally propy­lene gly­col or veg­etable glyc­erin. These can con­tain other com­pounds, but man­u­fac­tur­ers are not re­quired to di­vulge them.

When heated, the liq­uid pro­duces the va­por that the user is in­hal­ing and ex­hal­ing. Most e-liq­uids con­tain nico­tine, along with fla­vor­ings such as strawberry, banana, choco­late or mint. The al­lure of those fla­vor­ings to young peo­ple has been par­tic­u­larly controversial, and the out­cry has re­sulted in a num­ber of ac­tions at the state and fed­eral lev­els to limit their availability.

The gen­eral con­sen­sus is that va­p­ing is safer than smok­ing cig­a­rettes. That’s be­cause rather than the tens of thou­sands of com­pounds pro­duced in the burn­ing of to­bacco and its ad­di­tives, many of them toxic, the num­ber of in­gre­di­ents in e-liq­uids is lim­ited. How­ever, many teens and young adults who would not oth­er­wise have taken up smok­ing are find­ing the tech and the fla­vors of va­p­ing al­lur­ing. It is es­ti­mated 20 per­cent of high school­ers and 5 per­cent of mid­dle school stu­dents have tried va­p­ing, more than a third of them un­aware that the prod­uct con­tains nico­tine.

Nico­tine poses a real health risk to young peo­ple, whose brains and bod­ies are still de­vel­op­ing. Stud­ies have linked va­p­ing to hy­per­ten­sion, in­creased heart at­tack risk, slow wound heal­ing, lung in­flam­ma­tion, and in­creased like­li­hood of mov­ing on to smok­ing to­bacco. The Food and Drug Administration says va­p­ing is not safe for young peo­ple. We would end the sen­tence af­ter the word “safe.”

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