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Vaping related deaths: what you need to know

Despite seven vape related deaths in the US, medical professionals are struggling to determine why exactly the devices are bad for you. Here’s what we know so far.

A few years back vaping was all the rage. The prospect of replacing what is indisputably the leading cause of preventable death, traditional cigarettes, with ‘harmless’ vapour seemed like a no-brainer.

Vaping offered an instant advantage over other means of quitting resources such as nicotine patches, counselling, and hypnotherapy in that it gave smokers something else to actually put into their lungs. It sounds super simplistic I know, but as creatures of habit we don’t want to change our weird little rituals and vaping offered the most seamless transition for those looking to quit.

There was the financial incentive too. Who wants to pay a tenner every couple days for soft packs when you can get far more puffs-for-your-pee at apparently ‘zero’ risk with e-liquid caps? The switch was a win win then, wasn’t it?

Just how harmful can vapes be?

It appears vaping may be as harmful as harmful gets, if we take the NYC State’s Department of Health at their word. They believe the repeated intake of e-cig smoke proved to be the fatal factor in the deaths of seven individuals in the US this summer, while attributing a further 450 lung injuries to both THC and nicotine vape pens.

They’re not convinced that vaping even remotely helps people quit and believe that the potential harms and unknown risk far outweigh any benefit they could have.

The New York State’s Department of Health recently analysed several vaping products used in cases of severe lung illness. While they discovered that patients used various vape cartridges, the ones with copious amounts of vitamin E were the most dangerous.

Vitamin E itself is a safe substance found in everyday products like dietary supplements and skincare creams, but it’s unclear whether it’s safe to inhale in vapour form. E-capsules are essentially a form of grease, and once hot enough to be vaped God knows what you’re breathing in.

Despite mounting evidence against vapes Public Health England are yet to be convinced of the dangers and maintain that vaping is 95% safer than smoking cigarettes – a habit which kills 50% of those who take it up – and continue developing pioneering technologies to help smokers kick the habit.

The vaping black market

We’re very aware that this is probably the lamest sounding criminal enterprise going, but illegal vape capsules are circulating all over the world today.

The regular nicotine capsules are swapped out for illegal opioid and synthetic cannabis liquids that often end up in branded packaging.

In the last nine months over 128 samples across all 50 states in the US have thrown up synthetic marijuana in products marketed as CBD –  a cannabinoid found to have medicinal benefits with anxiety, cognition, movement disorders, and pain – meaning it’s often those who’re most vulnerable and looking for relief who end up taking hits of dangerous and harmful psychoactive chemicals.

Gummy bears and similar edibles accounted for over 30 of those hospitalised by vapes, and most shockingly fentanyl; the powerful opioid responsible for the overdose deaths of over 30,000 people every year was also flagged in two samples.

How is the vape business faring?

These negative murmurs around vaping and its ambiguous contents is causing quite the stir, and some e-smokers (through lack of a better term) are resorting back to smoking traditional cigarettes. A mounting consensus seems to be that the threat from vapes is far more immediate, and while normal cigarettes are obviously dangerous, people are at least aware of the risk they’re running.

Last week Donald Trump announced that he was gearing toward a national ban of flavoured vapes, asserting that we ‘can’t allow people to get sick and we can’t allow our youth to be so affected.’

In its infancy the vaping business has already generated a staggering $2.6 billion in the States. Entrepreneurs the world over quickly jumped on the vape cloud to success and spawned around 20,000 stores that exclusively sell vape related products. They’re about as common as Tesco Metro nowadays.

You can imagine the upheaval a nation-wide ban would conjure then. We know upending entire industries through knee-jerk, reactionary decisions has become a hallmark of the Trump administration, but to be entirely honest we too are pretty concerned by the recent influx of health issues related to vaping. They seem to have all come at once.

Thus far the vape business has surprisingly yet to see a drop-off. In-fact the most recent ASH (Action on Smoke and Health) survey showed a 5% increase in the number of 11 to 18-year-old vapers since 2018.

What do we do now?

First things first, those out there with bootleg vapes in their possession, ditch them. Those with products sold by a reputable dealer may want to hold off using them until health investigators can establish whether issues are stemming from a particular toxin or substance, or through heavy usage.

If friends are offering hits of non-regulated e-caps or liquids they’ve added substances to, stay well away. A few puffs of the wrong chemical can cause irreversible damage.

The vague nature of vaping also means that patients currently in care have almost no idea what they’ve used, and as a result creating methods of medical treatment is complicated. If you’re not completely sure what’s in your vape, don’t take it.

We’re not fearmongering here. It could easily transpire that everything we initially thought about regulated vapes and their benefits is entirely true. But for now, the smart thing to do is to hold fast until we can get some clarity on the subject. It’s cringe and I hate my self a little for saying it: but it’s better to be safe than sorry.