VAPING: E-CIGS UNDER FIRE
Vaping has been amassing a lot of steam lately. Here we take a look at some of the reasons why e-cigs are stirring up an aggressive global debate.
While many people are convinced that all the hype surrounding e-cigs is just Big Tobacco stretching its affluent limbs, new vape-related deaths in the U.S have people taking stock.
E-cigarettes, also known as mods, vape pens, e-cigs and tank systems, are a battery-operated vaporizer that imitates the behavioural features of smoking. Instead of burning tobacco, users inhale an aerosol known as vapor. These vapours contain nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerine, flavourings, additives and some contaminants from a liquid known as e-juice. When users take a puff, they get a vaporised, flavoured hit of nicotine.
The sale, possession, and use of vaping products containing nicotine are illegal in Australia, however online sale makes them easily accessible.
They were designed for smokers trying to kick the habit because you get your nicotine hit without all the tar and junk. And while it aids smokers to get over their vice, some are arguing that vaping just redirects your addiction.
In response to this, vaping companies claim that vaping is by far the lesser of two evils. But is it?
Whichever way you ingest nicotine, it’s harmful. There are risks to your brain, behaviour, it is addictive and places you at risk of respiratory illnesses.
Vaping took off approximately 14 years ago, therefore medically, we don’t know what the long-term effects are. No one will really know the full extent of damage that it does to our bodies for the next 50 years. It is essentially a chemical experiment and we’re the guinea pigs.
And in addition to retaining your nicotine addiction, you are now able to purchase extra-strength cartridges. Basically, you are able to get a stronger-than-cigarette hit, invalidating its primary purpose.
Aside from nicotine, e-cigs contain some potentially hazardous ingredients which include:
- Flavorants like diacetyl, a chemical known to cause serious disease
- Micro-particles that can be deeply inhaled into the lungs
- Unstable organic matter
- Metals such as lead and tin
A disconcerting aspect of vape and e-juice is the fact that users can mix their own chemical cocktail. What this means in terms of lung damage is anyone’s guess and is now beginning to cause serious concerns with the rising death toll across the world.
The National Drug Survey 2016 shows us that almost 230,000 young Australians have confirmed they use nicotine electronic cigarettes despite it being illegal.
Mysterious Lung Disease
Now as mounting concerns over U.S deaths from a mysterious lung vape-related illness surface, users are backing off.
The Alabama Department of Health announced its first vape-related death just days after New Jersey and Virginia publicised other vape-related deaths in their state.
The American Center for Disease Control and Prevention released a statement on Thursday about the rise of more than 200 new cases a week of lung illness linked to vaping. The number of people found with vape-related lung disease currently stands at 1,299. Symptoms of this illness include chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath, vomiting, and fatigue.
There have so far been 26 vape-related deaths across 21 states in the US. Most of the patients have a history of using THC-containing products. THC is the main psychoactive chemical in cannabis.
Young people at risk
Perhaps the main concern surrounding vaping should be the popularity amongst teenagers. Even though Australian youth reported a steady decline in tobacco smoking and illicit drug use, vaping is the new and aesthetically pleasing pull. E-juice makers are being accused of making e-cigs appealing to teenagers in the flavours that they sell. People can purchase all kinds of candy and fruit flavoured e-juice with names like Raspberry Risk and Unicorn Fart to name a few. Vape pens are easy to conceal and look like any small electronic gadget. They also don’t leave any distinct odours so young people are being drawn into the unhealthy trend even without ever smoking a cigarette in their lives. Young people are already susceptible to addiction due to their brains, which is still in its developmental phase.
There have also been reports of vape devices blowing up, with this US report showing that over 2000 people have been admitted to hospital with vape-related burns and injuries. A 24-year-old Texas man died after a massive stroke when his e-cigarette exploded and tore his carotid artery.
Australia’s stand on vaping
According to the media, the federal government and Health Minister remains firm in its stance to ban vaping in light of the recent statements released by the US FDA. Despite this, a number of agencies including some medical professionals who believe in harm minimisation and a few tobacco companies invested in e-cigs, continue to lobby for the regulation of the product.
Pro-vapers are saying that contracting acute illnesses associated with vaping is a result of counterfeit stock bought on the black market. Unregulated product leaves people in danger of smoking from cheaply made devices and knock-off e-juice bought off the street.
Despite legalised vaping in some US states, the latest US CDC figures has sent out enough red flags about a potential global crisis. This has prompted the NSW government to recently send out a memo to all health departments in the state, alerting all doctors to report any suspected vaping-related respiratory illnesses.
There is no doubt that smoking tobacco is really bad for your health. Medical professionals advise that those who aren’t trying to kick the habit to not even consider vaping. Vaping laws differ across each state and territory and are regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989.
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