This week it seemed like Donald Trump was taking a major stand against the vaping industry. On Wednesday he announced plans to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarette products. Trump said, “people are dying with vaping, so we are looking at it very closely.” But then Friday came a big flip flop, now all of a sudden he said, “I like the Vaping alternative to Cigarettes.”

But the CDC says vaping should be avoided and we spoke with some leading lung specialists who backed that up… many of whom have recently seen a dramatic increase in the number of vaping-related illnesses.  

Dr. Nadia Krupp, Riley Children’s Health pulmonologist in Indianapolis tells News & Guts they just started seeing vaping related illnesses in June of this year:

We have seen diffuse lung inflammation causing symptoms of varying severity in teenagers. Several of the patients we have seen have had life-threatening respiratory failure and ICU level care. Some (but not all) of the cases have involved the use of THC liquid in a vape pod. 

Dr. Joanna Tsai, a clinical instructor in the Division of Pulmonary at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center is doing research on the health effects of vaping. She says she has seen cases where “young individuals with otherwise a non-remarkable medical history except a confirmed history of vaping who have developed severe respiratory issues that has required being on a ventilator… There are also people being sent here for evaluation for possible lung transplant for suspected vaping.” She points out:

Both these cases have involved vaping THC (although may or may not have been exclusively). 

After cases like those mentioned above, the CDC issued a warning. Dr. Dana Meaney-Delman, from the CDC’s Lung Injury Response team, said:

CDC has advised that individuals consider not using e-cigarettes because as of now, this is the primary means of preventing this severe lung disease.

Dr. Zeenat Safdar, director of the Houston Methodist Lung Center agrees with the CDC’s decision saying:

Lungs react to inhaled substances differently. We know that unregulated vaping products contain compounds that are damaging to lungs. Nevertheless, even regulated vaping products should not be used as they also damage our lungs.

If people stop vaping this will help heal the lungs which are damaged by vaping. Vaping in any form is smoking and smoking destroys lung.

The vaping industry has pushed the idea that vaping is still better than cigarette smoking and that seems to be what Trump is implying in today’s tweet, but Tsai says traditional cigarette smokers should look at other options.

If someone is using e-cigarettes to stop smoking, there are medications available that a doctor can prescribe to help someone quit safely instead.

Some people also have questioned whether devices like Juul or vape pens are different. Krupp points out: I can say that we have seen cases of similar lung injury with multiple different devices. There was no one common device or product among all the cases we have seen. 

Something else to keep in mind. Right now it seems like we are seeing short term illnesses associated with vaping. What we still don’t know if the longer- term effects. Safdar points out:

We don’t know the long-term consequences to vaping and of inhaling these compounds. Most of these products are not regulated, therefore we don’t know what is being inhaled. 

In the next few years, we will start to see the longterm adverse effects. As these people age, they will likely develop chronic lung diseases similar to what we see with regular smoking.