Vaping becoming national epidemic

The Federal Drug Administration has declared the practice of vaping a national epidemic, and I agree.

As a practicing pulmonologist, I have seen the devastating and longterm effects of tobacco smoking. E-cigarettes and vaping devices were introduced to the U.S. market in 2007.

The initial claim that these devices were intended to help committed smokers to stop smoking has been found to be without merit.

Moreover, these products have been purposely marketed to a younger population and now are used by increasing numbers of adolescence and teenagers.

The claim that vaping is safer than smoking tobacco was one of the reasons many experts first advised smokers to consider this option.

This opinion was even express by administrators at the FDA. Vaping is a gateway to tobacco and now marijuana smoking.

Adolescents that vape are three times more likely to go on to use tobacco. The unregulated nicotine levels in vaping liquid are helping to create a whole new generation of nicotine addicts.

Most recently, vaping, especially of black market liquids containing marijuana and other compounds such as Vitamin E acetate, have been implicated in over 2,600 hospitalizations and 60 deaths in the U.S. since Jan. 14.

None of the commercial e-liquids are regulated for nicotine content and any of the other compounds present. The temperature at which the e-liquids are heated in a vaping device is unregulated.

The heating temperature can alter the chemical composition of e-smoke to include carcinogenic compounds.

Unfortunately, the horse is out of the barn on vaping.

Although restrictions on sales to minors and flavored products are being enacted, access through the internet alone makes these rules much less effective.

My Lung Disease Foundation has been active with local groups and schools for some time trying to give some real education to parents, teachers, and students. There is no recognized program for adolescent and teenage smoker to help them quit vaping.

I wish the FDA had been more cautious and insightful early on and been more proactive in trying to prevent these products from reaching the market.

Sadly, I believe we are just seeing the tip of an iceberg that will come to haunt the health of the next generation.

Dr. George M. Zlupko is the senior partner and founder of Altoona Lung Specialists. He also founded the Lung Disease Foundation of Central Pennsylvania.