Vaping proving to be dangersous

Either through intentional or subliminal marketing, the manufacturers of e-cigarettes have been touting them as safer alternatives to the real thing.

And they may be, but how much safer has come into question with the recent national outbreak of breathing illnesses related to vaping.

  According to a report late last week from The Associated Press, U.S. health officials have identified about 450 possible cases of lung illness, including five deaths, where the one common denominator appears to be that the victim had vaped within the past three months.

Symptoms have included shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain and vomiting — just about what you’d expect when someone inhales a caustic substance.

  Health officials are urging people to stop vaping until the medical community can figure out what might be going on. It has been suggested that the problem may be related to people using these electronic devices in ways for which they were not intended — for example, as a delivery mechanism for marijuana or its derivatives. But this theory has holes, too, as some of those who have been struck ill said they only vaped nicotine.

  Telling people to stop vaping is easier said than done, however, if they have already become hooked on nicotine, one of the more addictive substances known to man. Particularly disconcerting has been the rapidly rising number of minors who have taken up vaping — apparently because it’s so easy to conceal the devices in a pocket or a purse. Even though it’s illegal for a retailer to sell anyone under the age of 18 e-cigarettes, obviously under-age vapers have a way to get their hands on them, just as under-age smokers have for decades with traditional cigarettes.

  Telling people who vape to stop is like telling people who smoke to stop. Even though they may know the habit is bad for them, the craving inside their brain for the nicotine is far more powerful than reason.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has had the authority since 2016 to regulate e-cigarettes, is turning up pressure on the dominant player in the business, Juul. On Monday, it ordered the company to stop making unproven claims for its products, including that they are “much safer than cigarettes.”

  In the meantime, the best advice to young people about electronic cigarettes is the same as it has been for traditional ones. Don’t start. It’s easy to get hooked, and it’s a bear to get unhooked. Heavy concentrations of nicotine, no matter how it is being delivered, are not good for the human brain, particularly a developing one.