Fact vs. fiction: What we know about vaping among teens

Heart Disease

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The number of children using e-cigarettes is skyrocketing. Some teenagers vape openly, others hide it from their parents.

A local doctor is very concerned that we are staring at an even bigger health crisis down the road if something isn’t done immediately. The e-cigarette industry exploded before it was regulated and that means there is still a lot about vaping we don’t know.

Dr. Kevin Sneed, the Dean of the School of Pharmacy at the University of South Florida, helped 8 On Your Side separate fact from fiction when it comes to teenagers and e-cigarettes.

WHAT WE KNOW: A lot of teens are vaping.

“I would tell them to hold their breath and imagine they could never exhale or inhale again after that,” Dr. Kevin Sneed said.

Sneed speaks to teens about the very real dangers of vaping.

“The lung damage has become the primary problem,” he said. “Way beyond the nicotine, way beyond the TCH. We’re talking about legitimate lung damage.”

WHAT WE KNOW: Teens don’t really know what’s in e-cigarettes.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 66 percent said e-cigs contained just flavoring. Only 13 percent knew they contained nicotine.

Manufacturers do not have to report e-cigarette ingredients, so users don’t actually know what’s in them.

WHAT WE KNOW: Vaping is a $12 billion industry that’s largely unregulated.

Norman Sharpless, the acting FDA commissioner, recently said as much on Capitol Hill.

“In retrospect, the FDA should have acted sooner. We should have begun regulating these devices sooner,” he said.

WHAT WE DON’T KNOW: Exactly what’s causing vape-related illnesses.

Dr. Sneed suspects it could have to do with the sheer volume of chemicals people are inhaling.

“We don’t know much about the solvent or the flavoring or what will happen if you pull it across the heating element to create the vapor,” he explained. “What is it turning into? What kind of effect does it have on your body?”

WHAT WE DON’T KNOW: What will be the long-term effects of the vaping craze?

“Ten years from now, we’re going to wake up and if we don’t get a handle on it now, it will be a massive problem,” Dr. Sneed said.

Dr. Sneed is also on the board of the American Heart Association Tampa Bay. He says the lungs and the heart are closely related. So in addition to the lung concerns, he says lung damage can also lead to cardiovascular problems down the road.

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