Editorial: An uphill battle against vaping

Vaping remains a relatively new phenomenon, perceived by some as a safer alternative to cigarettes. Health officials continue to face an uphill battle to combat those ideas, specifically among teenagers, who are easy targets for marketers of the products.

The latest headlines around vaping, which surfaced last week, should give anyone considering using those products a reason to pause.

Health care providers across New York were advised to remain alert for potential cases of pulmonary disease in people using vaping products. A statewide health advisory was issued to warn providers of the “emerging health threat.” The New York State Department of Health said it is investigating 11 reported cases of severe pulmonary disease in people using vaping products, including one from Long Island. Patients range from 18 to 49 years old.

“These latest reports of pulmonary disease in people using vaping products in New York and other states are proof that more study is needed on the long-term health effects of these products,” health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said in a statement.

Doctors nationwide have been stumped by cases of breathing and lung problems. The New York Times reported last week, before the state health advisory was issued, that nearly three dozen young people have been hospitalized around the country with respiratory issues related to vaping either nicotine or marijuana. Reports emerged Friday from Illinois of a patient dying from a mysterious lung illness linked to vaping.

The state health advisory noted many cases have reported the use of products containing cannabis, as well as other nicotine products.

The issue has become serious enough for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to assist in the investigation. While no deaths have been reported in New York, some patients have had “progressive respiratory compromise requiring endotracheal intubation” to assist with breathing, according to the advisory.

In April, 14 members of the Riverhead Youth Coalition, a sector of the Riverhead Community Awareness Program, met with Suffolk County legislators Al Krupski and Bridget Fleming to discuss how the county can reduce underage access to vaping products. It’s encouraging to see young people taking the lead to help reduce their peers’ access to potentially harmful products.

“It’s important for people to know what you put in your body,” Imani Thomas, then a sophomore at Riverhead High School, said at the time. “I know a lot of people think, ‘Oh, it’s just a vape; it’s water vapor,’ but when they actually hear what we’re telling them, they’re usually surprised.”

There’s still much that is unknown about vaping and its long-term health effects. But if the latest health scare is any indicator, it’s best for everyone to avoid the products.