Update September 26th:
Twelve now reported dead and confirmed cases surging over 50% in a week into 46 US states.
The CDC has dispatched more than 100 doctors and investigators to identify the specific cause of the deadly illness, which resembles a rare form of pneumonia.
Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) at the National Institutes of Health, made a statement yesterday that the illness is a public health crisis and 25% of teenagers report they vape.
People often ask me about legacy tobacco products, where cancer/disease typically takes decades to develop. Doctors say vaping is different because far more acute damage that can lead to seizures with lungs “burnt” leading to death in under a year.
One issue seems to be that vaping was heavily marketed and sold without warnings about harms so users reported using the products far more often during a day, and without any self-regulation or sense of dangers (puffing on low-cost unlabeled/unknown liquids constantly indoors instead of just a high-cost labeled cigarette or two per day that regulators required to be inhaled outside).
Way back in July 2012 I wrote “Vaping Harmful to Health” because, after running into some kids in SF, I felt the need to warn about dangers that sadly weren’t obvious enough to them.
At the recent Structure conference, a young woman who had just moved from the east coast to San Francisco boasted of her boyfriends’ addiction to “Vaping”. She showed photos of all the accessories he has been obsessing about, from batteries to different colors and patterns. A young man visiting from New York echoed her story and said he was happy to be spending money on hip new e-cigarettes.
That post attracted a lot of random traffic (search engine success?) from people interested in vaping because it generated a huge amount of hate-filled and angry responses.
Literally hundreds of “die in a fire” variety harassment messages flowed into my queue for years afterwards. Many accused my blog of being a front for “big tobacco”. Here’s a typical example, from a St. Louis, Missouri reader:
Some also posted very lengthy counter-arguments to the comment section, which I then replied to as best I could.
Fast forward seven years and “all broadcast, print and digital product advertising in the U.S” is being halted by a big tobacco-owned vaping company under federal criminal investigation as their CEO steps down, and related death toll reaches double digits with confirmed illness approaching 550 people.
I’d say this qualifies as a slow response by regulators. 25% of American teenagers are reported to be at risk because of exposure and the CDC has asked people to immediately stop vaping as more death is expected from unknown illness.
Lately I’ve also been sad to discover Juul plastic cartridges laying all over the sidewalks and roads, as if toxicity of cigarette smokers tossing 4 trillion pieces of toxic trash into the environment (98% of cigarette filters are plastic fiber) was some kind of positive inspiration to vaping designers.
Shame on these engineers, their management and investors. Could I have done more over these past years to help wind up regulators by giving them some sticker suggestions?