‘Smoking 2.0’: Medical experts say not all vaping manufacturers have high quality control

In September 2019, U.S. health officials are investigating what might be causing hundreds of serious breathing illnesses in people who use e-cigarettes and other vaping devices. AP File Photo/Frank Franklin II

This is Part 2 in a three-part series on the rise of vaping among students, the health risks and the call to regulate the industry in B.C.

Back in the 1940s and 1950s, cigarettes were marketed as doctor tested and approved, with brands also selling their products based on great taste.

Decades later, vaping ads appear similar, also with the added “benefit” that, compared to smoking, it is the lesser of two evils.

But a reminder from Dr. Chris Carlsten, head of respiratory medicine at UBC, is that vaping is marketed by an industry that stands to make billions.

“This is an industry that has historically been known to not be honest and not having the public’s best interests in mind,” Dr. Carlsten said.

WATCH (Sept. 13, 2019): New Brunswick department of health monitoring vaping after deaths in the United States

Click to play video: 'New Brunswick department of health monitoring vaping after deaths in the United States'
New Brunswick department of health monitoring vaping after deaths in the United States

Dr. Michael Schwandt with the BC Centre for Disease Control agrees.

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Both doctors said it’s creating a new generation of nicotine addiction.

“We see them marketing many types of candy flavours, and lifestyle marketing that’s directed to young people, the concentration of nicotine in the liquids isn’t what is marketed as in some cases, and some are marketed as nicotine-free and it isn’t,” Dr. Schwandt said.

Schwandt said even with the absence of tobacco, people are becoming increasingly dependent on nicotine, whatever the form of delivery is.

With a recent spate of “vaping-related” illnesses and a handful of vaping-related deaths in the United States, Dr. Carslten believes cases will show up very soon in Canada.

“It’s just a matter of the public health community, focusing in aggressively in the United States, rather than the alternative hypothesis which is that there is something fundamentally different about vaping, the vaping product or the people who vape in the U.S.”

As for health risks, Dr. Carlsten says research is limited but data suggests there are consequences. The outbreak we’re seeing in the U.S. should be taken seriously across Canada.

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“I fear that it may be smoking 2.0. We’re inhaling into our lungs chemicals that are not chemicals that the lungs typically see, many of which are known to be toxic.”

He adds animal studies show links to pulmonary diseases like emphysema, a lung condition that leads to irreversible lung damage.

And while some of the fatal cases in the U.S. may be linked to vaping THC, he warns it’s not the only cause.

“Many of these users are using both the THC e-cigarettes and the nicotine e-cigarettes, and many of them are using the nicotine-only e-cigarettes.”

WATCH (Sept. 12, 2019): Canada’s party leaders react to dangers of vaping

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Canada’s party leaders react to dangers of vaping

Dr. Schwandt said that because the industry is a largely unregulated market with products coming from Asia, the United States and Canada, it’s hard to pinpoint the cause of mysterious cases in the United States.

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“There are thinning agents, thickening products, agents to change flavor, agents to change amount vapor that’s produced,” he said. “It’s not too surprising that that kind of especially grey part of the market is where we are seeing a lot of the harm. There is a huge amount unknowns in these products is an active concern, it’s something that was totally unexpected, I suspect, by the manufacturers and by the public health communities in terms of these very severe illnesses.”

Both doctors said there is no benefit to start vaping, but it can help people who want to curb or quit smoking.

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