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Two weeks after news of an Illinois death, the search for what's causing some mysterious illnesses has yielded a suspect. The epidemiological quest now unfolding suggests one more reason why young people should be especially wary of vaping.

Nobody can say with certainty. But the latest developments--this troubling outbreak of a mysterious illness included--underscore the growing awareness of vaping's health risks. That goes for devices that deliver nicotine as well as those that deliver THC.

The FDA bans the sale of e-cigarettes to youths under 18. Many states have their own age restrictions on purchases. That hasn't stopped teens from "juuling." Nearly a quarter of teens in a 2018 survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse said they had vaped within the past month, double the rate in 2017.

While the marketed purpose of vaping is to wean smokers off traditional cigarettes, with teens the opposite is happening. A Journal of the American Medical Association study showed in February that teens ages 12 to 17 who vaped were twice as likely to become tobacco cigarette smokers within a year. E-cigarette manufacturers have marketed their devices with teen-enticing flavors such as mango and creme brulee.

In some cases in which teens have been hospitalized after vaping, a youth initially had been vaping with nicotine devices, then moved on to vaping THC. The Tribune's Kate Thayer recently spoke with Adam Hergenreder, 18, hospitalized for an unknown respiratory illness after vaping. The teen started using nicotine vaping devices at 16, then later began buying THC-filled devices off the street. "People just see that little [vaping] pod and think, how could that do anything to my body?" Hergenreder told Thayer. "I'm glad I could be an example and show people that . . . will mess up your lungs."

As researchers rush to comprehend how some vaping impairs respiration, those words are strong, sound advice for teens and their parents. It's made even stronger by the fact that an 18-year-old gave it from his hospital bed, with tubes affixed to his nostrils to keep him breathing.

Editorial on 09/12/2019

Print Headline: The vaping illness

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