The Dangers of Vaping: Real or Hot Air?

Story and Photo By: Brandon Clark | Contributor | bec2022@jagmail.southalabama.edu

Vaping: Separating Fact from Fiction was held in the University of South Alabama’s College of Medicine on Nov. 4 and presented by Melody Petty, M.D, and Natalie R. Gassman, Ph.D. 

Melody Petty, M.D, is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at South Alabama and was recognized by the American Academy of Pediatrics as the E-cigarette Champion. The role of E-Cigarette Champion, according to USA Health, is to advocate against the usage of e-cigarettes, as well as helping addiction support among the youth. Natalie R. Gassman, Ph.D., is an associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and made her appearance via Zoom.

Through an informative slideshow, Petty and Gassman discussed the alarming trend of e-cigarettes, drawing upon recent studies that show the spike in usage with the release of Juuls in 2015, and research that showed through 2017 and 2018, e-cigarette usage jumped 78% among adolescents. Petty and Gassman, also explained that e-cigarettes have evolved over time with first, second, third and fourth generations. Gassman went into further detail about the differences between each generation, the main difference being “different reservoirs and modifications”.

Advancements in e-cigarette technology do not make them safer to use. Respiratory irritation, and E-cigarette or Vaping Associated Lung Injury (EVALI) are very harmful and can even be fatal. This is due to the fact that whenever you inhale, you invite carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals), heavy metals, caffeine and lipids (incomplete processed vegetable oils) into your system. You also have the potential to inhale dihydroxyacetone, a chemical often found in tanning lotion, as well as other chemicals that health officials and other researchers haven’t identified yet.

When asked about what she hopes for the future of research with vaping and what she hopes the FDA will do about it, Petty said, “It’s a fairly new product, and so there are just so many things we don’t know about it yet, but we have a lot of studies that are coming back showing that this is harmful and that these companies are targeting our youth and our young adults.” As for the FDA, Petty said, “I would just want them to start really regulating these things…and making it harder for access to youth and anyone to get e-cigarette products.”

The presentation was a part of Tobacco Cessation Awareness with the purpose of highlighting the danger and health repercussions of smoking and vaping. The University of South Alabama is in the process of establishing a Tobacco Cessation Clinic for USA Health.