Words of Caution for Colorado Vapers

It is estimated that up to 7% of adults ages 50 to 64 vape nicotine, and 1 in 4 medical marijuana users age 50-plus vape their cannabis. But entities such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the renowned Cleveland Clinic and Mayo Clinic advise older adults against the practice. “Everyone, including older adults, should refrain from using all e-cigarettes and vape products,” says Brian King of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health. Reports of severe breathing problems and deaths related to vaping have been growing, with half of reported deaths occurring in people over age 50. And among a reported cohort of people with vaping illness, 69 percent were over age 50 with many admitted to hospital intensive-care units. Compared to younger vapers, the CDC said older adults were also more likely to need breathing tubes and spent roughly twice as many days in the hospital. A coauthor of a Mayo Clinic study said the high percentage of deaths among older users suggests that they may be at greater risk for the most serious effects of vaping. When vaping medical marijuana, e-cigarettes and vape pens heat up liquid nicotine or the cannabis compounds, which produces an aerosol that users inhale. The e-cigs may also contain substances such as propylene glycol and glycerol. Due to spotty oversight of production processes, it’s not always possible to know what all is in an e-cig, and in what concentration. A Colorado lab suggested that some vape devices could be releasing damaging fumes from solder. Black market vaping devices are particularly risky. Studies have shown that daily smoking of e-cigarettes doubles the risk for a heart attack and may cause changes in cancer-related genes in human mouth tissue. Older vapers have also turned up with what’s called vaping-associated pulmonary injury [VAPI]. A leading pulmonologist in Philadelphia noted that anyone with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD, more common in older adults) likely has fewer reserves to help fight off VAPI. The Mayo Clinic summed it up succinctly this way: “Anyone who vapes puts their lungs at risk.”

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