Vaping Cannabis vs Vaping Nicotine
There has been a drastic rise in teen vaping across the US over the last few years. The younger generation is getting hooked on vapes due to its appealing flavors and low prices.
Vaping is inhaling and exhaling vapors through an e-cigarette or other vaping devices. The vapors that result from heating e-liquid containing cannabis or nicotine. Users consider it to be a "healthier" alternative to smoking with less adverse side effects.
Many people use cannabis medicinally and even more consume it as a recreational drug. Since marijuana is illegal in most places in the world, they often run the risk of failing a drug test at school or work. In these situations, they have to resort to asking their friends to provide them with clean urine or buying it from sites just to pass the test and not get fired.
However, because of the outbreak of lung injuries and health risks it entails, as reported by the CDC, we may be looking at a ban on the vaping industry in the near future. This seemingly safer substitute has started a ‘vaping crisis’ in the USA.
The Vaping Crisis
There's been a long history of vaping crisis which is being unraveled with the recent cases. The health crisis related to vaping has soared since last year. It all started in September 2019 when the first case of electronic cigarettes or vaping product use-associated lung injury (EVALI) came to light.
EVALI is a lung ailment that gets triggered by inhaled substances via vaping. It damages tiny air sacs in the lungs (alveoli) to cause pneumonia, or leads to an inflammatory reaction called fibrinous pneumonitis.
On February 18, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported a total of 2,807 hospitalized EVALI cases or deaths from the US states and its two territories (Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands). 29 states and the District of Columbia recorded an alarming number of 68 deaths.
It is a common belief that vaping is a safer alternative to smoking. E-cigarettes and vaping became popular with Juul, an electronic cigarette company.
But recently in an article, Rolling Stone reported that the e-cigarettes by Juul deliver five times more nicotine than a normal cigarette. It also stated that Juul disrupts the function of the blood vessels the same way as the smoke from cigarettes does.
Cannabis Vapes contain a psychoactive compound that alters the mind and makes the user 'high'.
What led to this crisis?
Most vapes cause lung ailments because of their psychosis-inducing content. This psychoactive compound in Cannabis has led to severe lung injuries.
According to the CDC report, 82% of the cases were a result of using such products, with or without nicotine and 33% were merely because of psychoactive cannabinoid-containing products.
E-cigarette liquid contains additives like propylene glycol and glycerine that release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) when heated. These fumes, when inhaled, harm your lungs.
The presence of Vitamin E acetate in cannabis e-cigarettes is strongly associated with the EVALI outbreak. It is an oil derivative usually found in foods and cosmetic products and is now used as a thickener in vaping products. Vitamin E acetate is harmless when ingested, but can hinder the normal functioning of your lungs if inhaled.
According to Neal L. Benowitz, a cardiologist and researcher at the University of California, Vitamin E acetate is being used in Cannabis vapes as it easily solubilizes the cannabinoids.
In a recent 2020 study, Vitamin E acetate was found in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid samples of 48 out of 51 EVALI patients. This was in comparison with the BAL fluid of healthy individuals where there were no traces of the compound.
Other than this, cannabis-cartridges containing intoxicating cannabinoids from the underground black market pose a greater threat than the legalized ones. These products include ' dank vapes' that contain about 90 percent of this cannabinoid. This may lead to psychosis and mental disorders in the long run.
Legislative Action against Vaping
Earlier this year, the Trump administration announced a nation-wide ban on some flavored e-cigarettes. The ban is for mint and fruit-flavored cartridge-based e-cigarettes. It is not a full-on ban, as menthol and tobacco flavors delivered in manners other than cartridges will continue.
Juul, a popular vape product company faced accusations by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of marketing its products as safer than tobacco.
Its 'Make the Switch' campaign ran with no scientific evidence for the claim and proper approval from the agency. Owing to the ban, the company pulled back the campaign and the flavored pods from the market.
In December 2019, the minimum age to buy tobacco products- including cigarettes, cigars, and e-cigarettes raised to 21. It is now illegal for a retailer to sell these products to individuals below the age of 21.
The FDA website also ran a report on it in the wake of a rising number of teens using the product.
The authorities have targeted the black market manufacturers to stop the sale and distribution of bootleg marijuana cartridges. The Police made a few arrests in this case in Wisconsin and Milwaukee in the past months.
Due to the new laws and federal regulations, there’s been a significant drop in the sale in the vaping and cannabis industry. But there’s a fear that with the ban, the consumers might switch back to traditional smoking.
Health risks of vaping
The electronic delivery of cannabis and nicotine has brought forward several health concerns related to the lungs and heart. Although cannabis also has health benefits, consuming it in large quantities and through vape cartridges may do you more harm than good.
The primary health risk of vaping has to be EVALI. This lung ailment has gripped numerous people across the country and continues to rise.
As it exposes you to harmful chemicals, it can induce problems like chronic lung disease and asthma.
Excessive vaping exposes you to formaldehyde and acetaldehyde that increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Nicotine is a toxic substance that can be addictive if you vape frequently. It raises your blood pressure and adrenaline hormone to increase your heart rate. This may lead to a heart attack.
How can you counter this crisis?
Vaping is no better than smoking. You may consider it an effective smoke cessation tool but you are still inhaling chemicals that are not good for you. Here are a few tips that can help you vape safely:
- Both cannabis and nicotine should be consumed in controlled amounts to avoid addiction. Also, you become more prone to health risks with their use.
- To save yourself from the health hazards of vaping, you need to be vigilant about the brands and products you buy. There are illicit companies that sell adulterated vape cartridges that have proved to be fatal. Beware of such products.
- Research the federal laws thoroughly regarding vaping in your state and follow them.
- If you’ve switched to e-cigarettes, do not go back to smoking. The dual-use of both can affect your health and delay the process in case you decide to quit.
- If you’re experiencing any breathing problems, consult a health care professional immediately to get timely treatment.
To conclude, you need to be in control of the amount and frequency of vaping. This is important because one can get addicted to both cannabis and nicotine.
Further research is required to back up the e-cigarette companies’ claim of nicotine vapes being a less harmful alternative to traditional cigarettes.
We know it’s difficult to quit altogether but try to educate yourself on the potential dangers of smoking and vaping. This might help you take it slow and eventually quit. Your body will thank you later!