Doctors Look to Keep Kids Safe as Vaping Stirs Fears

Physicians in Huntington are working to educate and keep people healthy as concerns about vaping habits grow.

In recent days, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the number of severe breathing illnesses found in people who vape has grown to nearly 200 in 22 states. The report also said that an adult in Illinois has been counted as the first death in the investigation.

Dr. Sara Siddiqui, a pediatrician at the NYU-Langone Huntington Medical Center, said, “Vaping is currently an epidemic in our youth. Since it first came on the scene we have seen a disproportionate rise in e-cigarettes in middle and high school, more than any other substance. It has far surpassed cigarette smoking.”

Vaping has been marketed as an alternative to cigarette smoking, eliminating tobacco. But vaping often results in the inhalation of several chemicals, Siddiqui said, even though some users think they’re inhaling water vapor. “Vape liquids have certain types of products that may cause popcorn lung,” she said, referring to a serious and irreversible lung disease involving the scarring of air sacs. 

Some of the chemicals involved in vaping and introduced deep into lungs through ultrafine particles  include glycerin, diacetyl, and formaldehyde, heavy metals, and volatile organic compounds.

What caught the attention of medical authorities recently is the development of lung problems not usually seen in younger people, and evidence of  abnormal immune cells in their lungs, Siddiqui said.

In addition to the chemicals, vaping can deliver larger amounts of nicotine than found in regular cigarettes.  Nicotine can be especially damaging to young people, Siddiqui noted, because of its effects on brains, which are still developing.

Dr. William “Doc” Spencer, an otolaryngologist and member of the Suffolk County Legislature, said he will be putting forward legislation that would bar vaping  within 1,000 feet of a school or building used by children because of concerns about second-hand effects of the practice.

“Sometimes these kids are becoming really sick and going onto respirators,” Spencer said. “The higher concentration means more contact to the lining of the lungs. I think that’s something that is an untended consequence as it becomes more popular. As an ENT, I see kids who have asthma or lung infections from colds or viruses. This could be a life threatening situation.”

The American Lung Association has warned about the dangers of vaping and the increase in use of products in younger people, concerned that they will become another generation of smokers. It cites a study by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine that concluded that there is “substantial evidence” that if young people using e-cigarettes, are at increased risk of using traditional cigarettes. 

“The inhalation of harmful chemicals found in e-cigarettes can cause irreversible lung damage and lung disease. Developing lungs of teens and young adults may be particularly vulnerable to these harms. This is particularly alarming in light of the dramatic increase in youth use of e-cigarettes – what the Surgeon General refers to as a youth e-cigarette epidemic,” the association said.

To try reduce the increase in smoking by teens and young adults, New York State has raised the minimum age to buy any kind of cigarette products, including e-cigarettes, to 21.

“We will be looking out” for vaping problems, Siddiqui said. “School administrators and others are aware of the problem. We see kids as young as 11 years old who admit to trying it,” she said.
Juul agreed to stop selling its fruity, kid-friendly nicotine pods in stores, under pressure from the Food and Drug Administration, but several  copycat products are now on the market.

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