Research at the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State is investigating the smoke and mirrors surrounding popular smoking products, including vapes, Juuls and other types of e-cigarettes.
Pulmonologist Joanna Tsai is studying how vaping can have serious effects on the lungs, cause health concerns and affect users long-term.
“The vaping industry is poorly regulated, and they are using a lot of different products,” Tsai said. “It started out with nicotine, but now there’s people using THC, and some make their own oils. At this point, we don’t really have a clue what people are vaping.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been nearly 1,500 lung injury cases and 34 deaths related to the use of e-cigarette or vaping products nationally as of Oct. 15.
Tsai said it’s hard whether to advise against nicotine or THC vapes because most people have used both, and the exact cause of these health issues is still unknown. According to a Sept. 30 medical center blog post written by Tsai, the first confirmed vaping-related medical case at the Wexner Medical Center occurred this summer, reflecting a national trend.
The typical ingredients used in these products are propylene glycol, glycerin, flavorings and nicotine, Tsai said. She added that she is not entirely sure what ingredients go into people’s personal recipes.
“Ideally, you should stop vaping because we don’t know the long-term effect,” Tsai said.
Some people have ended up in medically induced comas, on ventilators, and some have even died from using these products, and symptoms can vary in people, Tsai said.
“They’ve showed very low oxygen levels, which is when they need a ventilator, or in their lungs there’s an inflammatory reaction that causes severe inflammation with what they are inhaling,” Tsai said.
One Juul pod is equivalent to one pack of 20 cigarettes, Tsai said. It’s also not uncommon to hear that young people are using two or three pods a day.
“For young adults or teenagers, their brain is still developing, and the nicotine is actually known to affect the development of the brain,” Tsai said. “The other concern is they are priming their brain to be addicted to the substance, which they could also transition to other very addictive substances.”
Ben Johnson, university spokesperson, said in an email that the university’s tobacco-free policy strives to enhance the health and well-being of the campus community by encouraging people to be tobacco-free and having a tobacco-free environment.
According to Ohio Laws and Rules policy, people can receive civil fines for violating the university’s policy.
“The policy makes cessation assistance available to faculty, staff and students who wish to stop using tobacco products, requires appropriate signage at building entrances and exits, encourages individuals to respectfully remind others that campus is tobacco free, and requires managers, supervisors and building coordinators to lead by example and respectfully communicate the policy to faculty, staff, students and visitors,” Johnson said.
Tsai said there hasn’t been any testing to determine if the traditional ways for quitting cigarettes will work for people who vape.
“There’s not anything evidence-based yet, but the classic things we use for cigarettes are patches, gum, lozenges and things like that,” Tsai said.