As of today, a sixth person has died from vaping-related lung disease.  Nationwide, there have been at least 380 cases of lung illness among people who have used e-cigarette products — devices, liquids, refill pods, or cartridges.

We are in the midst of a health crisis.

Both the Center for Disease Control and the American Lung Association are urging people to stop the use of e-cigarette products immediately.  American Medical Association President Dr. Patrice Harris is recommending that anyone who has recently used a vaping product and is showing any respiratory issues should seek medical care.  Officials are demanding that the Food and Drug Administration expedite the regulation of e-cigarette and ban all flavored products.

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In my periodontal practice in Basking Ridge, I advise patients that cigarette smoking and smokeless tobacco use are associated with immediate and long-term adverse health effects, including heart disease, cancer, gum disease, and tooth loss.  

Emerging studies show that the amount of nicotine delivered by e-cigarettes is greater than indicated on the label.  In fact, the American Chemical Society has found evidence that vaping raises the level of DNA-damaging compounds in the mouth, increasing the risk of cancer.  

There exists a dangerous misunderstanding, particularly among young users, that vaping is safer than smoking and that vaping cannabis is somehow safer than with nicotine use.  New York State health officials said last week that extremely high levels of the chemical vitamin E acetate were found in nearly all cannabis-containing vaping products that were analyzed as part of the investigation.  Vitamin E acetate has been found in each vaping-related illness in New York.

The popularity of vaping among teenagers and young adults makes this issue even more pressing.  Our children have been bombarded with the idea of an allegedly safe — but instead deadly — new product that comes in flavors ranging from buttered popcorn to bubblegum that came to prominence amid a dearth of regulation.  Our children are in grave danger, and both manufacturers and regulators are to blame.

I commend the efforts of community organizations such as the Bernards Township Municipal Alliance Against Substance Abuse, which has been doing youth outreach about the dangers of vaping for quite some time, and demand — absolutely demand — that public officials step up their efforts to rid our schools, our communities, and our homes of these dangerous, poisonous products immediately.  

Tobacco lobbying firms have long had a stranglehold on Washington.  Tobacco companies donated $1.5 million to President Trump’s inauguration.  In spite of the rhetoric coming from the current administration stating a need to move forward with a ban on flavored e-cigarettes, this move is not nearly enough.  All vaping products, not just flavored ones, should be banned as quickly as possible. In fact, tobacco products on the whole, which cause far more deaths than vaping, should be subject to increased legislation.  It’s time the people we elected stand up to the endlessly deep pockets of the tobacco industry.

And the time is now.

Sophia Chadda