Pediatric Buzz

Teen vaping epidemic: what we do know is that we don’t know.

The teen vaping epidemic is real

It’s no secret that vaping among our youth population has risen exponentially over the last few years, due in part by advances in e-cigarette and vape technology, overall accessibility and the introduction of fruit based flavors indirectly targeting younger audiences. Everywhere you go vaping exists, and it feels like it came out of nowhere, and has become teen vaping epidemic. There has always been light “heat” and criticism towards the industry, but that all changed this past summer when healthcare systems and providers began to acknowledge a potential link between hospitalizations, injury and death with vaping.  

As of October 3rd, the CDC released a statement indicating that there have been over 1000 injury cases and 15 fatalities spread across 48 states, so far. These are just preliminary numbers which could turn out to me much higher as more attention and resources are directed toward the investigation. Some of the pre-hospitalization symptoms reported include cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausesa, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, fever and even abdominal pain. In some cases the symptoms developed quickly, while others said they came on slowly and intensified over several weeks. Approximately ¾ of patients have been male and also under 35 years of age, according to the CDC.

Every impacted patient has confirmed that they have used some form of vape or e-cigarette device, and the majority of cases involved products containing THC. The challenge we face while scrambling to solve the mystery is that medical practices and hospitals don’t have proper coding and reporting procedures within their EHR (electronic health records), making it very difficult to isolate outbreaks, analyze and report data back to the state. This is most likely why these headlines are just now surfacing, years after the inception of vaping.

What we do know is we don’t know… 

There are many theories as to what is causing the current epidemic, but the reality is the technology is so new and hasn’t been properly studied. The fact there are hundreds if not thousands of manufacturers, products and skews makes it even more difficult. Given the majority of cases indicate THC products were used makes the public and the medical community believe that black market products could very well be to blame. Recreational and medical grade cannabis or THC products are sold in the US, but undergo extensive third party laboratory testing to ensure safety. However, the majority of users are buying black market vape / oil cartridges off the street because cannabis is still illegal federally. Recreational and medical cannabis is slowly starting to make a ripple in the US markets at the state level, but we are still a long ways out from legalization. Black market products are often bought from forien countries like China, or manufactured by drug dealers; cutting products with harmful additives and exposing the products to contaminants. 

The best advice to give your friends, children, patients and especially the youth is to stop immediately, at least until the investigation has concluded. We all know that cigarettes cause cancer, yet millions of people still smoke. The difference is that the impacts of cigarette smoke usually manifest in various health issues years, or decades after smoking. The scariest part about what is currently happening is that the serious and fatal impacts that we are seeing are happening from short term use. 

Make sure to follow the CDC and FDA updates as the investigation matures.

Pediatric Buzz