Illustration by Yuree Chang

Cutting Through the Smoke: Vape Controversy

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported an increase in health issues reported to vaping or e-cigarette use: 503 cases of lung illnesses linked to vaping reported as well as 12 casualties.

Sep 28, 2019

In recent weeks there has been an increase in reported health issues related to vaping or e-cigarette use. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the number of patients with illnesses linked to vaping increased from 530 to 805, with the resulting casualties increasing from 7 to 12. As of 2018, it has been reported that 1 in 5 high school students and 1 in 20 middle school students vape.
High vaping rates among teens pushed U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams to declare vaping an “epidemic.” It also inspired schools, governments and big corporations to implement policies to tackle the issue. The state governments of Michigan, Rhode Island and New York only issued a ban on flavored e-cigarettes, while India implemented a complete ban. Additionally, Walmart raised the minimum legal age required to purchase tobacco products to 21 and discontinued e-cigarette sales in its stores across the U.S. Moreover, in efforts to limit vaping among youth, many schools have installed vape detectors, removed bathroom doors and have even begun drug testing students for nicotine.
Vaping is the process of heating up liquid and turning it into vapor to be inhaled. Solvents, or oils, are used during the heating process to become vapor. If some of that oil was to be inhaled, it could cause breathing problems and lung inflammation. Furthermore, many vaping ingredients are not listed in most vaping products. A common ingredient in vaping products is Vitamin E oil, which has been linked to severe and sudden respiratory problems in the past.
“Nicotine has a direct effect on increased risk of depression and anxiety, increased risk of attention deficit and hyperactivity and as well as other issues [such as] being a gateway drug to other things,” warned Dr. Ayaz Virji, head of the Health Center at NYU Abu Dhabi. He also stressed the importance of schools having a non-vaping policy, “because of nicotine and its effect on the young adolescent and growing brains” and its damaging effect on blood vessels as a “vasoconstrictor.”
When e-cigarettes first came into the market, they were marketed as a means to eventually quit smoking. Given the ongoing investigation into the exact causes of illnesses linked to vaping, Dr. Virji recommends medication or “nicotine replacement in the form of gum and lozenges” to help quit smoking.
While many government officials are considering a ban, some argue that such extreme policies could lead to detrimental consequences. Amelia Hamilton, a contributing writer for The Detroit News, believes that limiting the availability of vaping products will, in turn, cause a black market to emerge and allow dangerous counterfeit products to be sold with no regulations. Similarly, Stephanie Lee – a BuzzFeed news reporter – claims that mass bans could lead to higher tobacco cigarettes sales. Dr. Virji thinks that “individuals should make their own decisions” but he “like[s] the idea of alert being high. People should know of risks and benefits of the things they do.”
Meanwhile, in the Middle East and Africa, the e-cigarette market is estimated to be worth $485 million by 2024. The laws and regulations on e-cigarette trade in the UAE were relaxed earlier this year and Dubai is preparing to host the region’s largest vaping expo in 2020. This comes as a surprise considering that the UAE will also be implementing a 100 percent excise tax on electronic smoking devices that will go into effect from Jan. 1, 2020.
It is still to be seen what new policies the UAE government will implement on e-cigarettes in light of these new findings.
Salama Al Ghafli is a staff writer. Email her at
gazelle logo