Urban responds as vaping-related deaths climb to 24

Orla Meehan, Staff Writer

In recent months, a new wave of mysterious illnesses has been linked to Juuls, THC pens, and other vaping devices. With 1080 lung injury cases and 24 confirmed deaths, experts are calling vaping an epidemic.

Juuls are a type of vape that some believe to offer a healthier alternative to cigarettes. They come in various flavors, are easy and accessible to use, can give people a head rush, and are highly addictive. The Center for Disease Control reported in November 2018 that 1 in 5 high school students vape, which is a 19.3% increase from 2011.

Experts have not confirmed the substance or product that is causing the illnesses,   but suspect that they are due to certain chemicals found in vapes. According to the Wall Street Journal, most of the reported cases involved THC vapes, but there are a few that were attributed to vapes containing only nicotine. One possible chemical might be vitamin E acetate, a substance commonly found in THC vape products.

According to the Washington Post, patients affected by these new illnesses have experienced coughing, shortness of breath and chest pains. Vaping damages the lungs, and has left otherwise healthy, and often young, people in critical condition.

On September 11, the Trump Administration proposed a ban on the sale of all flavored e-cigarettes, excluding the tobacco flavor. Sources such as the Los Angeles Times have claimed that flavors such as mango and watermelon are targeting teenage vapers. This announcement followed the ban San Francisco put on the sale of all e-cigarettes on July 21.

Information from the recent HIPE survey of all Urban students provided insight into how many people at Urban vape. The survey stated that 210 students out of 383 responses, which is 55%, had vaped nicotine at least once. Furthermore, 226 out of the 240 students who had tried marijuana said they had used an electronic pen.

Jennifer Epstein, a health education teacher at Urban, warned Urban students that “nicotine is one of the most addictive drugs out there.” Adolescents are primed for addiction. “[The adolescent brain] is so willing to learn new things, including addiction,” she said. In her opinion, most people who vape nicotine regularly, will become addicted.

Epstein is in favor of the ban the Trump Administration hopes to set on flavored e-cigarettes. “You’re being manipulated, just like people were manipulated into smoking,” Epstein said. One pod equals a pack of cigarettes. “[E-cigarette companies] are targeting young people like crazy because they know you teenagers have a higher chance of continuing to smoke into adulthood,” she said.

An anonymous sophomore at Urban said that she started Juuling two years ago because “it was about fitting in. I could tell it was a dependency and an addiction because I wouldn’t get a head rush anymore but I still felt the inclination to do it,” she said.

After hearing about the new vaping illnesses, this student decided to quit vaping, realizing that her dependence on vaping was unhealthy. “I would be up at like twelve at night trying to get a head rush and [realized] this is not healthy,” she said. She added that when deciding to quit nicotine vapes, “no one can convince you the way you can convince yourself.”

“Everyone [who Juuls] knows it’s kind of bad, they’re mostly like f*** it,” an anonymous Urban senior said. She said that people in the Urban community are trying to cut down their use of e-cigarettes, after hearing about the new illnesses related to vaping.

Epstein cautioned against using any type of vaping device and said that chronic vaping will have unknown long lasting effects.

Aware of the deadly side effects, the senior said, “my new year’s resolution [is] to stop [vaping] completely.”

Epstein said people should quit when asked what advice she would give to people in the Urban Community who Juul. She said she believes the word about vaping-related dangers is getting out. “I think people are starting to wise up,” she said.