Walking through a park, across a street, or heading to work, all of us have suddenly caught the scent of fruit, chocolate, peppermint, or some other flavor coming from someone vaping nearby. As vaping has rapidly gained popularity since it’s invention in 2003, little has been said or written about its potentially dangerous health impacts. Many shops and restaurants in the U.S. and Canada have banned vaping on patios, near doors of establishments, and other public areas where smoking cigarettes is not permitted. Now, vapes have made the news in a negative light for the second time.
As CBC reported on August 23, 2019, an Illinois resident passed away following severe respiratory illness likely brought on by vaping, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Currently, the CDC is investigating at least 450 cases of severe respiratory illness across 33 states, all thought to be related to chronic vape use. The cause is yet unknown, and Canada's chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, reported to the media that the mysterious illness has not yet reached Canada. Tam also cautioned that everyone should be aware that the long-term effects of vaping, given that the number of chemical ingredients in vape oils, are unknown.
We may not know the exact link between vaping and this lung disease, but we do know some things about the dangers of vaping. Vaping entails inhaling steam and other chemicals, like formaldehyde, into the lungs. Human lungs are coated with mucus inside that protects lung cells by catching particulates before they infiltrate the rest of the body. Exposure to these particles thickens the mucus layer inside the lungs, decreasing the lungs' ability to fight off respiratory infections. Inhaling steam also prevents the lungs from absorbing as much oxygen as they should. Lower oxygen levels in the body decreases the health and functioning of major organs and muscles. In addition to these, the negative effects of ingredients in vape oil remain unknown and/or unreported.
These health risks of inhaling a foreign substance of any kind into your lungs point to potential dangers of long-term vaping use. While the cause of death and illness in individuals who vape isn't exactly clear yet, one thing is certain: Health officials and policy makers — and even Donald Trump — are beginning to worry about the correlation between the illnesses and increased vape use. We are probably just seeing the beginning of vaping-related diseases and deaths.