As the nation’s kids start packing backpacks and heading out the door for another school year, parents are eyeing those packs in increasing numbers and wondering if their children might be vaping. The CDC, the FDA, and a growing number of physicians are ringing alarm bells on statistics that indicate that the youth vaping trend is growing, and they want to get the word out about the consequences. “These kids are not realizing what is in this material that they are putting in their bodies,” said Santa Rosa school safety director Daniel Hahn in an interview with his local ABC affiliate station.
Since young people’s lungs and brains are still under development as they move through these school ages, doctors warn of potential respiratory and neurological consequences. In the same interview, a Santa Rosa doctor warns that these children are “putting themselves at very high risk of lung disease at a very young age” and that vaping at such a young age means that “they’re more likely to become dependent on other substances” as well.
Amplifying these concerns are growing numbers of reports of acute lung disease and disorders in teens in multiple states across the country. CNN reports that the CDC is investigating 153 cases of lung disease possibly caused by vaping, although the specifics are extraordinarily unclear. In many cases, the teens involved are not only vaping with a Juul – the device that has become the focus of teen vaping concerns – but have also used cartridges and devices loaded with THC; the compound in marijuana that causes the “high” associated with the drug. In states that have legalized the use of marijuana, these cartridges are produced under very tight controls. However, a large black market for the devices exists in non-legalized areas. These counterfeit, black market cartridges are produced and sold with no oversight or knowledge of what is actually going into them.
Such is the case in Milwaukee where eight teens from counties in southwestern Wisconsin have been hospitalized with severe coughs, shortness of breath, and feelings of fatigue. Interviews with these teens indicated they had used nicotine vapes like the Juul but had also acquired THC cartridges. The use and sale of marijuana is illegal in Wisconsin; even for medicinal uses, and the state still imposes criminal charges for those in possession.
The CDC has asked physicians who see cases of severe respiratory distress in patients where such usage is a possibility to collect samples of the material and send it to a laboratory to be tested.