Vaping-related deaths continue as health organizations sound alarm

Emily phuong Tran and Hannah Figueroa

Vaping products have become an epidemic among teens not only leading to addiction, but in some cases, death. As of press time, 14 people in the US have died from vaping-related lung illnesses. On the other hand, false notions and bias toward JUUL in general have caused people to accuse all the wrong sources. There’s a common misconception about vaping, and what specifically is killing people.

Cases of lung failure involving THC vaporizers have been continually reported since late June of 2019. As of October, the number has risen to over 805 cases across 46 states and one territory. The first death was confirmed in Illinois on Aug. 23; since then, 13 more deaths have been recorded in California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska and Oregon.

Doctors found a common theme among these patients: they’ve all used counterfeit black-market THC vaping products. Illicit cannabis products may be cheaper, but they’re not the same as legal THC products. Black-market businesses are diluting the THC oil by filling vape cartridges with thickening agents. Nicotine, formaldehyde and acrolein, chemicals known for causing cancer and commonly found in weed killer, can now be purchased as a pod the size of a USB flash drive.Recent crackdowns by the federal government have made THC oil scarcer on the black market.

One thickening agent appears in nationally collected samples: vitamin E acetate. For its colorless and odorless qualities, vitamin E acetate has been used as a substitute for THC. Vitamin E is cheaper and easier to produce than THC oil, but it is extremely poisonous when inhaled. Those that have been hospitalized reported cough, shortness of breath and chest pain. Parents and adults everywhere are concerned for the safety of their children, but Tualatin High School student Isabella Barton views vaping in a different way.

“How many people die every year from smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol? Kids will always find a way to get stuff, and banning something that has killed 14 people is only going to make kids turn to drugs that have killed hundreds of thousands.”

Talking to students in Tualatin, many carry the same ideology that JUUL is safer than cigarettes. Statistically, the comparison between tobacco’ and vaping-related deaths is drastic, as the former is responsible for over 1,300 deaths daily.

Overall, vaping has potentially harmful, unknown long-term effects and its products are filled with chemicals not meant to be inhaled. Knowledge and research on the issue prevents misunderstandings and gives a clearer picture on what exactly is poisoning teens worldwide.