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Area Health Education Center Outreach Coordinator sitting at a computer viewing the Centers for Disease Control's website about lung injuries caused by vaping.

 SVHEC AHEC Outreach Coordinator learns about the deceptive practices 
used by vaping, e-liquid industry

Obscuring the truth with misleading information is the definition of the term smoke and mirrors. Speakers detailing some of the deadly effects from the use of vapes, electronic cigarettes and cannabinoid e-liquids at a recent conference held at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville assert that this art of deception is a practice prevalent within the industry.
Dominique Watson, Area Health Education Center (AHEC) Coordinator for the Center of Nursing Excellence (CNE) at Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC), attended the conference, entitled Smoke and Mirrors, and was amazed by the widespread and unproven industry assertions that the products are a safe alternative to smoking.

“The conference was a real eye-opener,” she said. “People believe that switching from cigarettes to vaping is a healthier, safer alternative, but that is not always the case. Sometimes e-liquids can be worse than nicotine. Liquids have been tested and found to have additives like ethanol, THC, acetone, lots of chemicals.”

Dr. Michelle Peace, an associate professor of forensic science at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), and a speaker at the conference, has been a leader in the charge to expose the myths and dangers associated with vaping. In 2018, she headed a VCU study analyzing nine CBD e-liquids and found additives including a dangerous synthetic cannabinoid and a chemical found in cough syrup.

“This is a public health and public safety issue,” said Peace in an article published on the VCU website. “[The consumer doesn’t] know what’s actually in these products.”
And up until now, there has been very little oversight by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But with a spate of recent lung injuries and deaths, vaping has become a hot topic. A quick scan of recent headlines reveals a call to action against the industry ……
- American Medical Association calls for full vaping ban (USA Today)
- Congress feels heat to act on youth vaping (The Hill)
- Doctors call for more vaping regulation (ModernHealthcare.com)
- CDC says vaping lung illness now tops 2,000 (CNBC)

In a report from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), as of Dec. 10th, 2,409 cases of e-cigarette or vaping product use associated lung injury (EVALI) have been reported from 50 states, the District of Columbia and two U.S. territories. Just one week prior the cases numbered 2,291, a jump of 118 known patients. Fifty-two deaths have been confirmed in 26 states and the District of Columbia.

In Virginia, 90 cases of lung injury and one death have been reported. A chemical of concern in all test samples from patients with EVALI is vitamin E acetate, an additive, most notably used as a thickening agent in THC-containing e-cigarette products. However, many different substances and product sources are under investigation by the CDC.

“Vaping has evolved to a completely different level than intended when it was originally introduced as an alternative to smoking,” said Watson. “It is scary.”

“An important initiative of the Southside Virginia Area Health Education Center (AHEC) is to respond to the local health needs of the community through education, training, and health awareness,” said Ferren Pannell, SVHEC CNE manager and director of the Southside Virginia AHEC.

“The Southside Virginia AHEC wants to ensure that the community has pertinent information to make informed decisions regarding their health. As a registered nurse I am concerned for our community, who now are exposed to products that are not only extremely addictive, but also toxic to our lungs,” she continued.

If you or someone you know is actively using any form of vaping, and would like to stop, free cessation counseling is available through the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) Quitline. The number to call is 1-800-QUIT NOW or visit their website at QuitNow.net/Virginia.

The Smoke and Mirrors conference was sponsored by PATHS AHEC, Sovah Health, New College Institute and the Cancer Research and Resource Center, which is funded by VCU Massey Cancer Center and the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission.