By: Sharonda Rose, MSN, RN, clinical faculty, EKU Department of Baccalaureate & Graduate Nursing
Believe it or not, my first encounter with vaping occurred in a labor and delivery room. Yes! You read that right. Formally, I practiced as a labor and delivery nurse at a local hospital. I was in the middle of helping my patient deliver her baby, when I looked up and seen a vapor cloud in the air. To be honest, I was really confused about what was taking place as you can imagine. It looked like smoke, but there was no odor. The second time that I saw it, I noticed that the father of the baby had some sort of device. I asked him to put it away and he did. That incident occurred several years ago, today it is common for us to go practically anywhere and we see people with these devices or e-cigarettes.
E-cigarettes commonly referred to as “e-cigs”, “e-hookahs”, “mods”, “vape pens”, “vapes” and “tank systems” have become increasingly popular among young adults. These battery-powered devices heat a liquid into an aerosol that is inhaled by the user. This liquid contains nicotine, which comes from tobacco; flavoring and other additives. Other substances known to be used in these devices may include, but are not limited to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), vitamin E acetate, cutting agents/diluents and other additives, pesticides, opioids, poisons, heavy metals and toxins. The usage of E-cigarettes has more than doubled among adults aged 18-24 between the years 2013 and 2014. E-cigarettes have been thought to be a good tool for smoking cessation for some and considered relatively risk free by others. But, Are they REALLY risk free?
While researchers are still gathering evidence, here’s what we do know.
- Many E-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is highly addictive.
- Brain development continues until the early to mid-20’s, nicotine exposure during periods of significant brain development can disrupt the growth of brain circuits that control attention, learning, and susceptibility to addiction. This increased susceptibility to addiction can prime the brain for addiction to other drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamines.
- The effects of nicotine exposure during youth and young adulthood can be long lasting and may result in lower impulse control and mood disorders.
- The Center for Disease Control and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have received reports and are currently investigating links between E-cigarette usage and severe lung illnesses. These federal organizations are working along with state and local health departments and other clinical and public health partners to investigate a multistate outbreak of severe pulmonary disease that has been associated with e-cigarette usage.
- As of September 6, 2019, more than 450 possible cases of lung illness have been reported to the CDC from 33 states and 1 U.S. territory that have been associated with the use of e-cigarette products.
- To date, 5 deaths have been confirmed due to these lung illnesses.
Is vaping worth the RISK?
It is important to know the effects that vaping has on your health. We have learned that the use of e-cigarettes have shown to pose significant and avoidable health risks to young people. In 2016, the U.S. Surgeon General released a comprehensive report that addresses e-cigarette use among youth and young adults. This report includes significant data and analysis to the science of this public health issue.
Recently the FDA has strongly encouraged consumers to avoid buying vaping products of any kind on the street. Individuals have also been advised to refrain from using THC oil or modifying/adding any substances to products purchased in stores.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also has additional information about the risks associated with e-cigarettes. Get involved and learn the risks.
If you use THC-containing vaping products, monitor yourself for symptoms which include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Abdominal pain
If these symptoms are present along with e-cigarette use, promptly seek medical attention with your health care provider regarding concerns about your health. You can also call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). CDC, FDA, States Continue to Investigate Severe Pulmonary Disease Among People Who Use E-cigarettes. Retrieved from:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Outbreak of Lung Illness Associated with Using E-cigarette Products: Investigation Notice. Retrieved from:
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2019). E-cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General. Retrieved from:
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2019). Vaping Illnesses: Consumers can Help Protect Themselves by Avoiding Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-Containing Vaping Products. Retrieved from: