By MARSHA MERCER
In case you missed it, with all eyes on impeachment, there was sad and shocking news about vaping.
A 17-year-old boy required a double lung transplant last month after vaping destroyed his lungs, hospital officials in Detroit announced Tuesday.
His parents described their son, who was not identified, as a perfectly healthy high school student who loved sailing and playing video games -- until he came down with pneumonia-like symptoms in September.
His worsening condition became so dire he needed the double lung transplant to survive.
“What I saw in his lungs is nothing that I have ever seen before, and I have been doing lung transplants for 20 years,” Dr. Hassan Nemeh, surgical director of thoracic organ transplant at Henry Ford Hospital, told reporters, describing scarred and dead lung tissue.
“This is an evil that I haven’t faced before. The damage that these vapes do to people’s lungs is irreversible,” he said, adding: “Please think of that – and tell your children to think of that.”
He’s right. We can’t rely on any company or the government to protect us from the ravages of vaping. It’s up to each of us.
More than 2,000 people have become ill since March with e-cigarette or vaping-associated lung injury, known as EVALI. Of these, 39 have died. Many victims had used products containing THC, the active ingredient in marijuana that makes someone high, and some had used only nicotine.
The Centers for Disease Control found an association between vitamin E-acetate, an additive in some THC products, and EVALI.
E-cigarettes were supposed to be a safe way for smokers to quit. They work by heating a liquid to produce an aerosol that users inhale. The liquid can contain nicotine, THC, chemicals and additives.
The hospital did not say what or how long the boy had vaped. The median survival of people who receive a lung transplant is seven years, although he might beat the odds, medical personnel said.
About 28 percent of high school students and 11 percent of middle schoolers use e-cigarettes, a new study reported. No one knows the long-term health effects.
Facing pressure, Juul, the leading e-cigarette company, stopped selling some of its sweet flavors favored by kids, including mint, paused its marketing campaign, and cut 650 workers or about 16 percent of its workforce.
Congress is moving toward regulating e-cigarettes, along with other tobacco products. While e-cigarettes aren’t technically tobacco, they contain nicotine, an addictive substance that comes only from tobacco.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee Wednesday sent to the full committee a bill to limit tobacco sales nationwide to those 21 and older, prohibit online sales, ban flavored products, including mint and menthol, prohibit marketing to children and increase health warnings.
The House last month passed another measure raising the age for online sales and delivery to 21, among other things.
The Trump administration said in September it will ban the sweetly flavored nicotine delivery systems kids love, sparking an outcry. Hundreds of vape fans protested Saturday on the National Mall, chanting, “We vape, we vote!”
Amid signs cracking down on e-cigarettes could anger voters in key states of Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin, Trump said he would also consider jobs along with health. As of this writing, he has not acted.
But even if e-cigarettes were banned, kids will find them.
What’s needed is an intensive ad and social media campaign to change attitudes and the culture -- to persuade a new generation that e-cigarettes are no better than the ugly cancer stick of a combustible cigarette.
As someone who began smoking cigarettes in high school and smoked on and off for 25 years, I know how comforting nicotine can be – and how deadly. A close friend died of lung cancer in 2002. She was 52.
I’d already quit smoking by then, less because of health than embarrassment. Smoking was no longer cool, like Bogart and Bacall. It was just a smelly, nasty, old habit.
Smoking still kills nearly 500,000 Americans a year. Adults can make their own mistakes, but we can’t allow young people to believe e-cigarettes are an acceptable alternative. That’s just blowing smoke.
©2019 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.