OPINION: Alert Your Children to the Dangers of Vaping

Nov. 23—While lung cancer is most commonly associated with traditional tobacco use, an epidemic is happening across America, with teens and young adults now becoming more at risk for developing lung cancer because of vaping. The lack of testing requirements of all substances in e-cigarettes by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and limited long-term data on the health risks of vaping shouldn't lull anyone into thinking vaping is a less serious health risk.

Vaping devices, also known as e-cigarettes, are battery-operated, and users inhale a flavored aerosol, which contains some variation of chemicals and nicotine depending on the type of vape. Liquid chemicals present in the e-cigarette, called "E-juice," can be contaminated with bacterial endotoxins that may survive even after humidification. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 460 e-cigarette brands with about 7,700 flavors are currently on the market.The FDA reports that e-cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product among youth, followed by cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, hookahs and nicotine pouches. According to the American Cancer Society, studies also show vaping by youth can lead to a smoking habit down the road. Unfortunately, this also comes with a risk of developing lung cancer at an earlier age. Here's what you need to know about vaping. Upon inhalation, the chemicals and nicotine in e-cigarettes enter the bloodstream and stimulate adrenaline. As most nicotine products do, the hit will trigger the brain's reward circuits leading to addictive feelings and behaviors. Users may consider vaping and smoking different and therefore may not worry about the health concerns that come with smoking, such as cancer, because there is less nicotine in e-cigarettes than regular cigarettes.

One of the biggest risks with the use of e-cigarettes especially in young adults, is that it often leads to a potentially severe respiratory illness called e-cigarettes and vaping associated lung injury (EVALI). The inflammatory response to the chemicals or bacterial endotoxins in the E-juice may lead to EVALI. Young adults with EVALI often end up in the ICU and sometimes on mechanical ventilation.

EVALI may also present as lung nodules and enlarged lymph nodes in the chest, which may mimic lung cancer and therefore requires many doctor visits and frequent imaging with CT scans that may cause significant exposure to radiation. Sometimes these patients may need invasive procedures like bronchoscopies and sometimes surgical lung biopsies to rule out lung cancer. Even if it is not cancer, going through the process of ruling out a potentially fatal lung cancer may cause extreme anxiety, emotional stress, and mental health issues among young adults and their families.

A misunderstanding of the dangers of vaping may lead to an overconfidence that could lead to dismissed early warning signs of a potential health problem, which leads to a later diagnosis. Typical symptoms of lung disease include a persistent cough that worsens over time, hoarseness, chest pain, wheezing, frequent lung infections, and coughing up blood. Other symptoms sometimes have nothing to do with the lungs, including weight loss, increased bone fractures, blood clots, and headaches.

November is National Lung Cancer Awareness Month, an opportunity to assess your risks and talk to your health care provider to determine if you meet the criteria for screening. Lung cancer screening detects 80% of lung cancer at an early stage. Without screening, 70% of lung cancers are diagnosed in late stages, when there is less chance for survival.

If you are a tobacco smoker or someone who uses e-cigarettes, take the time to schedule an appointment with your provider to assess your risk for lung disease.