“Vaping is killing a lot of people in this country and they’re mostly your age.” That’s the clear-cut message from Dr. James Broomfield, medical director at Kimball Health Services, speaking to 175 high school students Wednesday at the Harry McNees Auditorium.
“We don’t know which one of the five people in the front row that it’s going to kill,” Broomfield said. “The reason I’m here is that a bunch of you are doing it.”
Vaping, or using e-cigarettes, can lead to serious, irreversible lung damage. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as of February 2020, a total of 2,807 hospitalizations or deaths are linked to e-cigarette use, or vaping, in the US.
They’re also called vapes, e-hookahs, mods, vape pens and electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS). According to the CDC, e-cigarettes work by heating a liquid to produce an aerosol that users inhale into their lungs. The liquid can contain nicotine, tetrahydrocannabilol (THC) and cannabinoid (CBD) oils and other substances, flavorings and additives.
But because vaping products are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, Broomfield said, it can be anyone’s guess what the user is actually inhaling. The damage, he said, often starts the first or second time the substance is used.
Broomfield likened the effects of vaping to the smoke seen in Cheyenne last weekend, where visibility was reduced to less than a mile from wildfires burning west of Cheyenne. There was 750 parts per million (ppm) of smoke particulates in the air, he said.
“That means you’re breathing air 8 to 10 times as thick as the smoke in Cheyenne this past weekend. I cannot express to you enough that it will ruin your body. Don’t blow off the effects of what it will do to you.”
What’s more, the effects of vaping aren’t just physiological. Getting caught vaping in school results in a one-day suspension on the first offense, school officials in the audience said, and the consequences go up from there. But what many students don’t think about, Broomfield says, is that getting caught vaping could lead to a mark on a student’s record that prospective colleges will notice when the student applies for admission.
The good news, according to the CDC, is that data from state health departments around the country show a sharp rise in cases of vaping-associated lung injury in August 2019, a peak in September 2019, but a gradual but persistent decline since then. One of the reasons, the CDC says, may be increased public awareness of the risk associated with vaping along with actions by law enforcement.
“If you’re trying to keep your life clean,” Broomfield concluded, “don’t start vaping.”