Joan Kline, Health Educator with the Putnam County Health Department, displays a Juul device, one of the more popular vaping devices in use - Putnam Sentinel
Joan Kline, Health Educator with the Putnam County Health Department, displays a Juul device, one of the more popular vaping devices in use. (Putnam Sentinel/Martin Verni)

PUTNAM COUNTY — Members of the Putnam County Alcohol, Drugs, and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Board heard a presentation last Friday on the known and emerging dangers of vaping. Created by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), this same presentation is intended for a student audience and is being presented at area schools throughout the county.

“It’s important for more and more people to have an understanding of the risk,” begins Joan Kline, Health Educator with the Putnam County Health Department. “What are e-cigarettes, what are the health risks, what leads to use, and what can [teens] do about it?”

“Basically, what e-cigarettes do is they heat a liquid into an aerosol, and then that is inhaled…Nicotine is that drug that is in tobacco. It’s also been an insecticide. So, it’s not a great thing to inhale into your body.”

Mrs. Kline then shows an example of one of the more popular brands of e-cigarettes, Juul. When asking those present what they thought it looked like, the response was nearly universal. It looks like a computer flash drive.

She then showed the small cartridges that the Juul brand of e-cigarettes uses. The liquids are flavored, with Mrs. Kline bringing ‘mango’ and ‘creme brulee’ to the presentation. The flavors, and their appeal to young people, in particular, has been a source of criticism for the manufacturers of these new devices.

“In that liquid, there’s the equivalent of about 20 regular cigarettes,” said Mrs. Kline, to audible surprise. Many assume that vaping a cartridge is the equivalent of smoking a single cigarette. This is not the case. The delivery of nicotine, an addictive substance, is about 20 times that of a regular cigarette.

“Earlier this week, I talked to some high school kids,” she continued. “I asked them what their number one health concern was right now. Guess what they said?”

“So I said, ‘Let’s talk about this some more.’ Are kids vaping in school? Yes. Restrooms? All the time. Some kids are evening doing it in class.”

Mrs. Kline described a scenario of baggy clothing and small devices. Also, the large vape cloud often associated with e-cigarettes is not always produced. It can be nearly unnoticeable. And, with a smell more like candy than cigarettes, vaping can be concealed, it seems, in a busy classroom.

The risks of use cannot be so easily avoided. “When you bring nicotine into your body, it attaches itself to receptors in your brain. This causes you to become addicted and makes you want and crave it even more,” Mrs. Kline continues. “And, we’re concerned about brain development when it comes to nicotine. They’re sucking in so much of it with one shot; it’s a little scary.”

Also, contrary to some popular thinking, e-cigarettes do not create a harmless vapor. It contains volatile organic compounds, ultrafine particles, cancer-causing chemicals, including heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and even lead. Then, there is Diacetyl, a flavoring chemical that has become linked to serious lung disease.

As of Oct. 1, the CDC reports 1,080 lung injury cases associated with using e-cigarettes or vaping, from 48 states and one U.S. territory. The agency confirms eighteen deaths in 15 states. All patients have reported a history of using e-cigarette, or vaping, products. And, most patients report a history of using THC-containing products (THC is the active ingredient in marijuana). The latest national and regional findings suggest products containing THC play a role in the outbreak.