E-cigarettes were marketed to Americans as safe alternatives to traditional tobacco products, but it is becoming increasingly clear that their safety has been dramatically overstated, putting millions of lives in danger.
States have the ability to restrict the sale of tobacco and vape products while researchers study their effects. New Jersey must follow the lead of states like Massachusetts — where the governor recently banned the sale of all vaping products for four months — and ban the sale of vaping products until we understand the health risks associated with them.
Seven Americans have already died from confirmed mysterious lung injuries linked to e-cigarettes and vaping this year. While we do not know the exact cause of these tragic and sudden deaths, we are beginning to see a pattern of illnesses linked to vaping. More than 800 cases of lung injury related to vaping and e-cigarettes have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in more than 40 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
In New Jersey, 34 reported cases of vaping-associated illness are under investigation, with nine more cases confirmed. Most people who report illnesses have no significant past medical history.
It is critical that the public understand the potential dangers associated with the use of vaping products. Many of these illnesses have been linked to products containing marijuana bought on the street or online — the CDC reported last week that the majority of cases appear to stem from black-market marijuana products. But other life-threatening illnesses have been reported by individuals who reported vaping nicotine only.
News reports have described symptoms such as coughing, chest pain, and or shortness of breath that led to hospitalization, and many of these patients later developed “acute respiratory distress syndrome,” a life-threatening condition in which fluid builds up in the lungs.
Given these staggering developments, what is perhaps even more alarming is the underlying statistics showing who uses these dangerous products. A 2018 study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that 37.3 percent of American 12th graders reported vaping in the past 12 months. In New Jersey, nearly one in five high school boys and girls reported using e-cigarettes, according to the New Jersey Youth Tobacco Survey.
It is imperative that we develop a comprehensive understanding of the risks associated with these products to protect ourselves and our children.
This is not a permanent prohibition on the use of these products, but if New Jersey residents are going to continue using vapes and other electronic cigarettes, they must first understand the risks and become educated on the impact to their health that might come from the practice.
In addition to Massachusetts’ ban, New York, Michigan, and Washington state banned flavored vaping products — those which appeal most directly to kids — earlier this month.
New Jersey must protect its citizens and stop the sale of vaping products until we can research and identify the risks associated with them, as well as what is causing these terrible deaths.
If you, or someone you know, want to quit smoking or vaping and need help, call the New Jersey Quitline at 1-866-657-8677 or call 856-374-6363 for additional resources in Camden County.
Carmen Rodriguez is a freeholder for Camden County and liaison to the Department of Health and Human Services.