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With a sixth death in the United States now having been attributed to vaping, concern is ramping ever higher about the dangers that e-cigarettes pose to health.

(Also, it’s worth noting that traditional cigarettes still represent an enormous danger, but that’s a topic for another article.)

The latest death is part of a surge in illness linked to e-cigarettes. Roughly 380 cases of possible vaping-related lung illnesses have been reported throughout the United States. The Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, state and local health departments and others have been investigating the outbreak, but no clear results have yet been found.

The FDA also is investigating the possibility that the use of e-cigarettes can lead to seizures.

What is vaping?

“Vaping” is a common way to refer to the use of e-cigarettes, akin to the way “smoking” is related to the use of traditional cigarettes. E-cigarettes contain a liquid that is heated within the device to produce an aerosol, or vapor, that users inhale into their lungs. The liquid used in e-cigarettes often contains nicotine (commonly present in traditional cigarettes) or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabinoid (CBD) oils (produced from marijuana). Other substances and additives also are common in e-cigs.

Vaping popular among youth

A report from Johns Hopkins Medicine notes that while e-cigarettes may be less harmful to health than traditional cigarettes, they’re just as addicting and still terrible for your health. E-cigarettes are also pretty popular among youth.

Young man blows vapor from an e-cigarette as he walks down the sidewalk at sunset.

“A New Generation is Getting Hooked on Nicotine,” shouts the Johns Hopkins headline. Information from the U.S. Surgeon General backs that up: “E-cigarettes are very popular with young people,” notes a report about the risks of e-cigarettes. “Their use has grown dramatically in the last five years. Today, more high school students use e-cigarettes than regular cigarettes.”

In fact, more than a quarter of high school students reported e-cig use in 2018. A study from Yale University has shown that the many flavors available in e-cigarettes make vaping more popular for youth, leading them to become addicted to nicotine. That’s disturbing information, given the potential dangers of vaping.

Separate research from Yale has shown that vaping involves the inhalation of potentially toxic compounds. On top of that, research from Baylor University has shown that chronic inhalation of e-cigarette vapor — even if it contains no nicotine — inhibits lung function and reduces healthy responses to infection.

In short, e-cigarettes are not a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes. Both are bad for your health and are best avoided. If your teenagers have been experimenting with vaping (or with drugs or alcohol), there’s no better time than now to talk with them about the potential dangers.

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