By Andrew Hunsaker, Clarion Editor-in-Chief
The Chicago Tribune’s top headline on August 24, titled “An Illinois resident just died after a mysterious vaping-related illness”, shocked millions across the nation.
The patient was one of nearly 200 e-cigarette users hospitalized between late June and August with respiratory problems. Since then, more than 500 people have fallen ill and 10 more deaths have occurred relating to vaping products containing THC, a psychoactive chemical found in cannabis.
Is this just a coincidence, or are there correlations between these anomalous fatalities and the escalating uses of vapes? How are Kennedy students being affected by this matter?
According to National Public Radio, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) is investigating this matter. Dana Meaney-Delman, who manages the CDC’s response, claims that clinical evidence has shown chemical exposure to likely be connected to the illnesses.
“However, and I really want to stress this, more information is needed to determine which specific products or substances are involved,” Meaney-Delman added. Because of these reasons, the CDC suggests “… people should consider not using e-cigarettes, particularly those purchased from sources other than authorized retailers.”
According to their data, 62% of the victims were between 18 to 34 years old and 16% were under age 18. Furthermore, 80% used products containing THC, and 61% used nicotine products. Some 7% used cannabidiol, better known as CBD. Patients reported using 14 different brands of THC products and 13 brands of nicotine products in a wide range of flavors.
On Sept. 26, New York state health officials conducted lab tests and found tocopheryl acetate, also known as vitamin E acetate, in a number of cannabis-containing vaping cartridges submitted by people who had fallen ill. The chemical is known as an antioxidant property that is often found in skin care and dietary products, and officials have stated that it is now a “key focus” of their investigation.
The next day, Mitch Zeller, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Tobacco Products, announced that the agency now had 120 samples of e-cigarettes available for testing. “No one substance or compound, including vitamin E acetate, has been identified in all the samples tested,” he stated. “This is a challenge for everybody involved in the ongoing investigations, but the right coordination exists between federal agencies and state health agencies that are the boots on the ground in this,” Zeller reassures us.
The concerns of health regarding e-cigarettes are only increasing, and vaping industries don’t seem to be stopping production anytime soon. Teenagers, the main consumers of the growing market, are drastically becoming hooked onto them, with 37% of high schoolers admitting to regularly vaping. The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) has also stated that one in 10 eighth graders have also admitted to the same acts.
“Teens are clearly attracted to the marketable technology and flavorings seen in vaping devices; however, it is urgent that teens understand the possible effects of vaping on overall health; the development of the teen brain; and the potential for addiction,” Nora D. Volkow, director of NIDA, warns the Sacramento Bee that “the craze for nicotine in aerosol form has made total tobacco use (e-cigarettes are considered tobacco products) soar.”
David Van Natten, John F. Kennedy High School principal, said, “The risks are much greater than some realize they are, and anytime you put something inside your body, no matter what it is, it is going to have an impact. And the potential impact here, as we have seen, is death. I certainly wouldn’t take that chance.”
When asked on the subject of how the school is taking action, he noted that he has requested the school site council to set aside money to provide reasonable responses. He hopes that these efforts will result in some changes at least on campus.
Jose Marte-Filpo, former campus security monitor at Kennedy, told Clarion staff that vaping and e-cigarettes matters have only worsened over the years. He, as well as other monitors, have caught multitudes of students vaping during class and hiding the smoke exhaled under their sweatshirts. Staff warn students that addiction to these products could negatively impact their academic excellence, as well as their mental health.
In this current age of technology, it is important for high schoolers across the country and the globe to understand the risks that come with the use of e-cigarette products and it’s long-term effects on our physical and mental states. As the subject matter intensifies, we are left pondering the question “Will a resolution ever be reached?”
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