Widespread teen hospitalization and deaths reveal the gruesome effects of vaping

Vaping: years before the popularization of JUUL at the hands of adolescents, it was assumed to be a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes. The majority of consumers considered that inhaling nicotine through water vapor rather than tobacco smoke, which had been known to include many harmful toxins, was practically benign. However, more recently, this argument is maintaining less merit as countless photos capturing stories of hospitalization and even death due to various forms of vaping are appearing over social media platforms across the internet. 

Of the 22 cases of teen hospitalization due to vaping that have been found in the Midwest as of Aug. 12, six were based in Illinois and mostly impacted healthy teens and young adults in their early twenties. Symptoms have been reported as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, fever and weight loss, yet several go undetected until fatal. While the main culprit is predicted to be vitamin E oils and other solvents contained in the pens, the Center for Disease Control cannot confirm the exact cause of incidents like lung collapse and vomiting until further studies are conducted. But as the public is awaiting comprehensive research, adolescents will continue to evaluate the consequences of vaping, and more are raising awareness of this notorious issue.

Some of the first viral posts surfaced over Instagram less than three weeks ago, and yet still continue to accumulate likes and comments every hour. 

One ex-e-cigarette user named Simah Herman, posting to Instagram on Aug. 29, captioned her experience saying, “About 2 years ago, I started having terrible nausea issues. That turned into being unable to eat, sleep and just live normally. 2 weeks ago I started having trouble breathing. It took me 48 hours for my lungs to fail, which led to me being put on a ventilator.” In the picture, the young girl is hooked up to tubes in a hospital bed while holding up a sign that reads, “I want to start a no vaping campaign.” Currently, the photo stands at nearly a million likes. 

If those engagement numbers couldn’t be sufficient enough, the photo alone has also received almost 70,000 responses- the majority of which have been very positive, and showcase the boundless support victims are receiving as they share their stories. Instagram users worldwide, extending their numerous thoughts and prayers to all going through the recovery process, more importantly insist that such stories are necessary for making a difference in other users’ lives and stress that action must be taken to end the grave vaping epidemic. 

Upon hearing about the outbreak of disease, Chase Kowalski, a recent graduate from District 203 who regularly uses JUUL vape products, admits he grew more apprehensive about the substance. 

“When I think about the risks [of smoking], I know there are many negative effects, but it doesn’t always affect everyone, and some peoples’ bodies can tolerate it,” Kowalski said. “I have no idea if mine can or not, but I haven’t had anything bad happen as a result of smoking yet, but if something were to happen, I think I would stop.” 

Additionally, Kowalski mentioned that he has recently learned of his brother’s friend contracting a lung disease from marijuana carts, which he explains is possible with vaping as well. 

Following the extensive media coverage, JUUL is facing serious scrutiny by both the public and health officials alike. Though JUUL founder James Monsees supposedly intended to aid cigarette users in cutting the habit, it was impossible to foresee the impact his company’s product would have on the health of teens across the country. From the time it first launched, JUUL has falsely advertised its product as a safer alternative to cigarettes without providing any scientific evidence for the claim, proof which by law is required by companies. Allegedly, JUUL representatives have even provided this information to teens in high schools. The FDA sent a warning letter to JUUL Labs on Monday, a measure taken when a manufacturer has severely violated the administration’s regulations. Such a letter is assumed to have been prompted by what has been deemed “a lung disease outbreak,” with hundreds of cases of sickness and five recent deaths taking place over the past few months. 

It is difficult to determine when or if the federal government will crack down on distributors of e-cigarettes and vapes until a definitive reason for these deaths is traced back to companies involved. The empire that is Altria has reigned for years without limitation- and until controls on companies like it are instituted, the media is taking matters into its own hands to acknowledge the dangers of vaping, and to warn teens of the cost of a fad.