Vaping Bans Loom as Mysterious Illness Comes to Light


photo via Wikimedia Commons under creative commons license

Juul is under attack and may see its products removed from New Jersey shelves.

Katie Buelt, Features Editor

Vaping and the use of e-cigarettes have become increasingly popular, especially among teenagers; in 2018, CBS News reported that 1 in 5 high school students claimed to have tried e-cigarettes at some point. But in recent weeks, the dark side of these devices has been coming to light. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as of Oct. 8, 2019, 1,299 people have reportedly contracted a severe lung condition, primarily characterized by severe pneumonia. Specifically, this causes inflammation of the lungs due to the presence of dangerous substances, and has been linked to permanent damage to the lung tissue. While this illness isn’t caused exclusively by e-cigarettes, it has, until this point, been found almost exclusively among the elderly. Of the known cases, 26 of those people are now dead. The exact ingredient linked to the disease remains a mystery; however, scientists have no doubt that all cases are linked to e-cigarettes in some form. Most dangerous seems to be those bought off of the streets that contain unknown ingredients. 

Another concern is that 80% of those with the disease are under 35 years old. Proponents of tighter restrictions on e-cigarettes have used this as proof that marketing and special features have made these devices dangerously appealing to younger generations. One striking story involves an 18 year old, Adam Hergenreder, and Illinois resident who was told by the hospital that he has the “lungs of a 70-year-old”.

Unsurprisingly, both state and federal governments are looking to crack down on e-cigarette sales and regulations. In September, when reports of the lung illness first surfaced, the FDA announced that a possible ban on flavored e-cigarettes is in the works. The theory is that this would decrease interest in nicotine containing products among the younger market. The CEO of the company Juul publicly stated that his company will comply with whatever restrictions are placed on the e-cigarette industry.

New Jersey could be on track to become the first state to ban e-cigarettes altogether. State senator Stephen Sweeney is one lawmaker who is encouraging an all-out prohibition on e-cigarettes. State health commissioner Judith Persichilli is one of the fiercest opponents of the use of these devices, currently pushing for legislation that would outlaw e-cigarette use for people younger than 21. The governor himself has also promised to sign off on any e-cigarette related restrictions.

One major concern regarding these new laws involves the nearly 10 million people who currently use e-cigarettes as a way to wean themselves off of nicotine addictions. If these devices are banned, there are worries that countless adults would resort back to smoking– a practice that has been thoroughly proven to pose a severe health risk.

Currently, the CDC is urging people to follow their recommendations regarding e-cigarettes. These include avoiding nicotine containing products altogether, particularly those bought from an non-reputable retailer. They also encourage adults using e-cigarettes to quit smoking to ask their doctor about medications and other, healthier therapies. 

Unfortunately, it seems that nothing– from the long-term health risks to future legislation– is certain regarding the topic of e-cigarettes. What is certain to lawmakers and scientists, however, is that this mystery makes the devices all the more dangerous.