Vaping and Your Health: What You Need To Know

Woman Vaping behind the wheel

Although the full effect of vaping is not known, new research has linked serious lung disease among teenagers and young adults with a history of e-cigarette product use. Our Health Department urges residents to be aware of the potential risk that vaping poses, and advises patients with a history of vaping who are experiencing breathing problems to seek medical care right away.


What Is Vaping?

Vaping is the popular term for the practice of inhaling and exhaling the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device. The term is used because e-cigarettes do not produce tobacco smoke, but rather an aerosol, often mistaken for water vapor, that actually consists of fine particles.

Other common terms for vaping include “Juuling” (based on a popular brand name) or “dabbing,” which refers to vaping marijuana oil, extracts or concentrates. Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is highly addictive and can impact brain development.


Evidence of Risk

The health risks and benefits of using e-cigarettes and similar devices are still being evaluated. However, there is a growing body of evidence indicating that the chemicals in these products may be dangerous. As of Oct. 15, 2019, 1,479 lung injury cases associated with the use of e-cigarette, or vaping, products have been reported to CDC from 49 states (all except Alaska), the District of Columbia, and 1 U.S. territory.

In addition to respiratory and lung illness, the nicotine exposure from e-cigarettes has been linked to:

  • Harming brain development (which continues until age 25).
  • Impacting learning, memory and attention.
  • Increasing the risk for future addiction to other drugs.

The use of e-cigarettes among youth and young adults has skyrocketed in recent years and has been referred to as an epidemic by the U.S. Surgeon General. In 2018, CDC and FDA data showed that more than 3.6 million U.S. youth, including one in five high school students and one in 20 middle school students, were past-month e-cigarette users.


Symptoms of Lung Disease

Severe respiratory illness and lung disease is a newly recognized complication of vaping. Reported symptoms, which grow worse over days or weeks leading to difficulty breathing or admission to the hospital, include:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea

No specific product has been linked with this disease. Right now, a variety of vaping products have been used by people who developed a severe illness.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of lung or respiratory illness, please seek medical care immediately.


How You Can Help

As a parent or caregiver, you can help educate youth and young adults about the risk of using e-cigarettes.

  • Talk to children and teens and let them know that e-cigarettes are harmful to their health.
  • Set an example by providing a tobacco-free home and environment.
  • Look for symptoms of lung illness and take anyone experiencing symptoms to seek medical care.

If you or a loved one need help cutting nicotine out of your life, Quit Now Virginia provides free information and coaching by telephone or online to Virginians who want to quit smoking or using nicotine products. Call 1-800-Quit-Now (800-784-8669) to learn more.

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