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Vaping: From Buzzword to Curse Word

Vaping smoke behind hand holding vape.
Vaping: From Buzzword to Curse Word Infographic

Smoking is a hard habit to break. Many cigarette smokers want to quit smoking entirely but struggle in doing so. This is because cravings for nicotine – the highly addictive compound naturally present in tobacco – can be challenging to shake off. People who stop smoking can start again as soon as withdrawal symptoms kick in. And so some smokers turn to vaping to ease the transition. With the help of vaping, withdrawal symptoms such as hunger pangs, dizziness, and irritability are a lot easier to handle.

For the last decade, vaping and e-cigarettes were the talk of the town. It steadily gained traction as an alternative to smoking. With a growing following, a vaping subculture began to thrive. Celebrities and icons such as Lady Gaga, Samuel Jackson, and Leonardo DiCaprio have been blowing clouds of sweet e-smoke. Oxford heralded the word “Vape” as 2014’s Word of the Year. Even big tobacco companies are gatecrashing the emerging vaping party. As in the case of Altria, the tobacco giant bought a 35% stake from Juul in December 2018. Altria owns Philip Morris.

But someone tripped on the cord and stopped the music. With the rising number of vape-related lung injuries, the safety of vaping is currently under question. And the earlier claim that vaping is a better alternative to smoking is also under scrutiny.

Tracing the Outbreak of Vape Related Lung Injuries

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention lists 1,299 e-cigarette and vape related lung injuries as of  October 8, 2019. Reports of illnesses started cropping up in April, and there’s been a notable increase since July. With vape related lung injuries reported from across the U.S. and  26 deaths confirmed from  21 states, authorities and parents are raising the alarm. Thus, a thorough inquiry on the matter is looming.

As the number of vape related lung injuries grows, data suggests that sustained exposure to cannabis compound THC (or Tetrahydrocannabinol) and Vitamin E oil (or Vitamin E acetate) largely contributed to the injuries. Based on lung biopsies conducted, experts noticed that the patients had developed lipoid pneumonia – a rare type of pneumonia that occurs when oil or fat particles enter the lungs.

The exposure to THC and Vitamin E acetate is a vital piece of the puzzle that can shed light on the outbreak of vape related lung injuries. As the cost of THC can be quite steep, underground markets dilute the vape products with cheaper additives such as Vitamin E acetate.

The investigation on the outbreak of vape related lung injuries is a developing story. While patterns are beginning to show, authorities are careful not to pin down on a particular lead. Federal agencies such as CDC and FDA are closely monitoring the situation. Local and state governments have imposed regulations and bans to contain the damage of counterfeit vaping products. Producers and companies within the industry are working with the authorities to go after copycats and counterfeits.

Vaping and E-Cigarette and Market Outlook

 The global e-cigarette and vaping market are expected to reach $53.4 billion by the year 2024. And despite the lung injuries caused by vape, the US market is still projected to grow to 16.5 billion by the year 2024. In fact, North America is a leading market for e-cigarette and vaping products. The vast market share is primarily attributed to the growing awareness of the hazards of cigarette smoking. With increased awareness, e-cigarettes and vaping come as a less harmful alternative.

Undeniably, the e-cigarette and vaping industry shows a lot of potentials. However, players and actors in the space have so much to work on. Product development and research should ramp up. There should already be a comprehensive study on the impact of vape products.  Distribution models and channels should also be closely monitored, and black markets and informal sources should be contained. Lastly, there should be laws and legislation to protect both consumers and businesses.

When the Hon Lik – the inventor of modern e-cigarette – conceptualized the device back in 2003, his goal was to quit tobacco smoking completely. Seeing how lung disease defeated his father, the humble pharmacist from China thought he could make a difference by helping people curb smoking. Despite the current challenges, vaping still stands as a means to lessen cigarette consumption and, eventually, kick the habit.


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