Vaping THC has been linked to a deadly lung disease showing up in young users. The CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are investigating a national outbreak of e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury, also known as EVALI.  As of February 4, 2020, there have been 2,758 cases of EVALI requiring hospitalization.  So far, 64 deaths have been reported.  Perhaps what is most alarming is that 52% of patients are under the age of 24, with 76% being under the age of 34.  Thankfully, emergency room visits associated with EVALI are on the decline.  But the CDC says new cases continue to be reported.

Vaping liquids can contain a wide variety of chemicals including nicotine, flavorings, coloring, oils, glycerin, propylene glycol and other ingredients.  Statistics show that of all the EVALI hospitalizations, 82% of patients reported that they used tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) containing products. THC is the substance in marijuana that produces the “high”.

Initially introduced as a safe alternative to help adults stop smoking, vaping quickly caught on with teens and young adults by the use of candy flavorings and shady marketing. It’s now estimated that 34% of all high schoolers now vape 20 or more days a month.  10 percent of middle schoolers regularly vape.  And the vaping of marijuana containing products (THC oil) has doubled in the last two years.  21% of high school seniors and 19% of 10th graders admit to vaping marijuana. Vaping THC oil is more dangerous than smoking the leaf form because you get a higher concentration of THC, increasing the likelihood of addiction and medical consequences.

What Can a Parent Do?

It’s now illegal to sell vaping products to anyone under 21. However, despite regulations put in place to protect youth, 94 percent of the time, minors are purchasing vaping products online. Monitor your child’s internet activity.  Know what vaping pens, e-cigs, pods, atomizers, and coils look like so you can recognize them.  Some devices are made to look like other objects such as USB drives or watches, pens, and markers.  Kids prefer the flavors of vaping liquids, so watch for smells of fruit or candy.  Vaping causes inflammation of the mouth tissues, so look for gum disease, tooth loss, or other dental issues. And be alert to shortness of breath, abnormal coughing, excessive throat clearing, nausea, and weight loss. Vaping THC can cause depression and anxiety, impaired reaction time and reduced coordination.  Memory and attention can also be affected.  Just like smoking marijuana leaf, vaping THC can cause bloodshot eyes, dry mouth, and increased appetite.