Grand Futures: What is really in that vape?
Lindsey Simbeye and Rachel Kandzierski
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — In the past few months, there has been a lot of coverage in the news about e-cigarettes and other vaping devices due to the number of newly reported incidences of lung disease and death associated with vaping. In Colorado, there have been eight reported vaping related illnesses this year, with just over half becoming hospitalized. Nationally, the incident rate is closer to 530, with more being reported every week.
We know vaping is a growing problem, especially among youth, and as long as the industry continues to invest in deceptive advertising practices and the use of flavored vape liquids, the epidemic is likely to get worse before it gets better.
So, what is in a standard vaping device? First, because these products are not yet fully regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, there is no such thing as standard. In fact, various brands state 5% to 8% strength, but the actual nicotine content can be two to three times that of a pack of cigarettes or another brand with the same packaging claim.
The most common ingredients are propylene glycol, a solvent that has been known to cause lung damage; glycerol, a byproduct of soap manufacturing; and, of course, nicotine, the widely known and highly addictive substance that can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, infertility and respiratory illness, to name only a few. Some products even contain heavy metals.
Secondhand smoke from vaping products has also been shown to contain harmful chemicals, such as benzene, formaldehyde and isoprene, the latter of which is a solvent that is also the main compound found in rubber and known to be a carcinogen.
Young lungs are especially susceptible to the harmful effects of vaping products, since they are still developing, and yet, young people make up the largest portion of the population with steadily increasing numbers of vape users. According to the 2017 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, between 51% to 71% of Routt County high school students felt vaping was harmful, compared to 88% to 90% who thought smoking packs of cigarettes was harmful. Yet, most vape products contain the nicotine equivalent of one to three packs of cigarettes in a single pod of vape juice.
Because vaping is so new, there is relatively little research as to the long-term effects on the body. The Centers for Disease Control recommends people avoid tobacco and nicotine in general, but as their investigation into vaping related deaths continues, they have since updated this warning to include e-cigarettes and other vaping products.
A full list of ingredients often found in vape juices and other helpful resources can be found at grandfutures.org.
Lindsey Simbeye is the executive director and Rachel Kandzierski is a communications associate for Grand Futures Prevention Coalition.
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