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The Dangers of Vaping

By Saumya Sharma

E-cigarette, or vaping, product use–associated lung injury has trends on age, race, and health lines.

E-cigarettes, or vaping, is a relatively new form of cigarette that is considered a modern and cleaner version of the older, more primitive, cigarettes. A variety of flavors and a flameless disposition are two of the main reasons they have taken to popularity so easily. Unlike cigarettes, e-cigarettes provide options to be nicotine free as well as emit pleasant smells.

New research published in the New England Journal of Medicine takes a dive into the trends within one effect of E-cigarette use - lung injury (EVALI). EVALI can range from minor tissue scarring to a decrease in lung function. Severe EVALI cases result in ventilators due to lung functioning being permanently damaged. Not all E-cigarette users will be affected by EVALI, but it is a key indicator of the possible negative effects of the prolonged use of these drugs. EVALI, like any other disease, has a variety of symptoms and effects in patients. Understanding the long term side effects that can result from e-cigarette use can help with patient care and risk analysis.

The data used in this study came from a nationwide dataset and was obtained from the CDC(Centers for Disease Control). There were over 2000 reported cases of EVALI in the United States as of January 2020, with 60 resulting in fatalities. This ratio makes it clear that while not everyone who is diagnosed with EVALI will result in a fatality, there is a fair chance that they will. The next question is-“What trends are visible within the population of United States EVALI cases?”

To answer this question, researchers delved into a retrospective data search. The statistics of this research study were created using medical-record abstracts to skim for commonalities as well as patient interviews to obtain more detailed accounts of profiles and trends. More than half of all the EVALI cases in the dataset were present in males (a resounding 67%). 80% of the fatalities due to EVALI were within Caucasians. These statistics may be in part due to social and economic factors, allowing these individuals access and freedom for prolonged use of vaping and e-cigarettes. Populations over 35 year olds were also more likely to have fatal EVALI cases than those under 35 years old. This may be due to age related health concerns, or body recovery rates. The risks as well as early symptoms of lung functioning decreasing resulted in 46% of EVALI fatalities being in contact with medical professionals before their last hospitalization and eventual death.

Pre-existing health conditions are always a large factor in hospitalization from any disease or illness, and the same holds true for EVALI. Many chronic conditions, especially those that have a link to the respiratory system, resulted in a higher probability of hospitalization due to EVALI. Within chronic conditions, mental health conditions were also included, further displaying that there is a significant connection between mental health and physical health.

In regards to a larger societal trend within Gen Z, there has been a rise in the popularity of e-cigarettes. Recently there has been approximately a 40% decrease in the number of high school and middle schooler e-cigarettes users. The easy portability as well as their more pleasant scents/flavors make them easy to use in public settings. This study shines light on the trends of dangers of EVALI in the United States population, while also attempting to gather long term data on the impacts of e-cigarette use.



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