First vaping deaths mark an epidemic

America’s vaping epidemic has recently taken a dark turn, with 17 deaths from vape-related illnesses as of Oct. 2.

This is only the beginning. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported a total of 805 cases of vaping-related lung illnesses as of Sept. 27. Common symptoms include shortness of breath, fever, coughing, and vomiting.

The cause is still unclear, but the FDA’s forensics lab has found vitamin E acetate, a cutting agent often used in vape cartridges as well as a known respiratory irritant, in samples from afflicted patients.

More than half of the patients have also self reported using Dank Vape brand cartridges. These cartridges are pre-filled with THC, or tetrahydracannabinol, the active ingredient in cannabis.

Though vaping has existed for years, it’s only recently become a prevalent issue within our society, and it owes its newfound infamy to teenagers.

Between 2017 and 2018, e-cigarette use among high schoolers rose by 78 percent, according to data from the FDA’s National Youth Tobacco Survey. To make matters worse, more than half of the patients are 25 and under, and 16 percent of them are minors.

Vaping thrives in high school, and will likely continue to do so because students don’t grasp the danger of it. Even if vaping is perceived as dangerous, teenagers act as if they’re immune to it somehow.

Simah Herman, an 18-year-old girl from Los Angeles, vaped constantly since age 15 and said she never had an issue with it until she was hospitalized. After recovering from a medically induced coma, she immediately recognized the latent danger of  her old “hobby”.

Herman woke up, but there will be kids who don’t. And no one can know who will or will not until it’s too late.

This isn’t to say actions aren’t being taken to prevent vaping. President Trump has publicly stated that he plans to pursue a ban on the sale of flavored vape. New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Sept. 15 that he plans to utilize emergency regulations in order to ban the sale of vape throughout the state immediately.

School districts are also taking notice. Wilson High School in  Alabama has removed bathroom stalls to cut down student vaping, while Dell Rapids School District in southeastern South Dakota began installing vape sensors in bathrooms.

But the truth of the matter remains that in order to affect significant change regarding the epidemic, kids have to stop vaping. It sounds obvious, but people will always work around authorities if they set their mind to it.

Without changing the attitude of teenagers toward vaping, it will not stop. It might diminish stricter regulations definitely have to be implemented regarding the purchase of e-cigarettes, but it’s unlikely to reduce at the rate that we need it to.

Vaping is a joke at Cal High because of its trendiness. It’s a constant punch line. There’s a steady stream of jokes about the bathrooms smelling like cotton candy and the various ways people avoid getting caught. More than anything, there’s this pervasive idea that vaping isn’t that big of a deal, and even if it was, nobody would stop.

But it’s a trend that needs to end. A few laughs aren’t worth the risk of hospitalization or something even worse.