Every parent’s worst nightmare
DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) - October 16, 2019 - 12:00am

There is a serious health threat specially for our young people and as usual, this government is behind the curve.

Vaping is causing quite a health stir worldwide. Even Donald Trump was alarmed enough to say that he is thinking of regulating the use of flavors that attract so many young people to it.

CNN reported the case of teen who ended up with lungs similar to a 70-year-old from vaping for over a year. The teen’s mother said this is “every parent’s worst nightmare”

“If I had known what it was doing to my body, I would have never even touched it, but I didn’t know,” Illinois teen Adam Hergenreder now says of vaping.

A student athlete, he still has difficulty climbing up stairs after being hospitalized with “severe lung damage” caused by e-cigarettes. He started vaping when he was 16.

When Hergenreder first began vaping, he was under the impression that e-cigarettes were safer to use than regular cigarettes — plus he thought they “tasted good.”

And that’s the problem. Juul, the market leader in e-cigarettes is marketing the product as safer than cigarettes and introduced flavors designed to make young people use it.

US authorities have launched multiple investigations and warnings against Juul for marketing to teens and for making unauthorized claims that its product is safe.

With regulators in the US going tough on it, Juul is now shifting its focus to third world countries like the Philippines. It was observed that the majority of tobacco and nicotine consumption takes place globally in lower middle income markets.

And Juul is defying regulatory restrictions Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tried to impose. Yet, they follow similar restrictions in their home market.

The US Food and Drug Administration is investigating whether Juul’s fruit and other nontobacco flavors constitute illegal marketing to kids and should therefore be banned. In response, Juul has voluntarily pulled these flavors from US stores… but not in the Philippines.

Our FDA tried to issue an administrative order that would have prohibited the sale of e-cigarettes to minors and limit how and where they can be marketed. But according to a report by the Washington-based National Public Radio, two Philippine e-cigarette companies are using the slow moving Philippine legal system to prevent that from happening.

NPR reported that “according to Ana Trinidad Rivera, director of the relevant department at the Philippine FDA, the status of the order is now ‘under discussion by the government lawyers handling the case.’”

Perhaps if our FDA was more proactive in issuing the proper regulations before the likes of Juul came into our market, we won’t have this problem. That’s the usual sleeping on the job malady afflicting our bureaucracy.

Our government also has yet to muster some sense of urgency to move the legal system if only to protect the health of our people, specially the young ones, from this product.

It is turning out to be worse than tobacco. Our government has issued so many restrictions and raised taxes on tobacco supposedly for health reasons. And it is working. Sources in the tobacco industry tell me sales have significantly declined.

There should be similar health concerns for e-cigarettes. The Department of Health should issue strong warnings and launch a public information drive to make the public aware of the dangers of vaping.

 Dr. Albert Rizzo, chief medical officer of the American Lung Association, told NPR that vaping still use carcinogenic chemicals, “very similar to ones that are in regular cigarettes.”

Juul is prohibited under US laws, from describing its product as safe – or even saying it’s safer than smoking. Last month the US FDA warned Juul that some of its marketing does just that. The agency ordered Juul to stop immediately. But the company faces no such restrictions in the Philippines.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed that the death toll related to the outbreak lung diseases due to e-cigarettes has risen. According to the CDC, nearly three-quarters of the cases were male, and two-thirds were aged 18 and 34.

“Alarmingly, 16 percent were younger than 18 years and more than half were under 25 years of age. Some patients have gotten seriously ill, even winding up in intensive care units on oxygen support through ventilators or intubation.”

In an editorial, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s David C. Christiani wrote that it might be the interaction of multiple ingredients that’s having toxic side effects. “E-cigarette fluids have been shown to contain at least six groups of potentially toxic compounds.”

On lung X-rays, the lungs appear to be inflamed, as if a pathogen infected them. But when doctors tried to find a common bacterial or viral source of the disease, they failed to turn anything up. Patients only have vaping in common.

In the case of Anthony Mayo, 19, of Erie, Pennsylvania, horrifying X-rays show his lungs had become severely congested with solidified oil. Doctors told his parents the oil resembled cooking grease that hardens after it has been left to cool and his lungs are likely to be scarred for life.

Preliminary data from a new National Institutes of Health survey, which has tracked substance use among American adolescents, showed one in four high school seniors reported using nicotine e-cigarettes in the past 30 days, followed by one in five high school juniors, and one in 11 eighth graders. The rates were even higher for kids reporting vaping over the past 12 months.

This, according to the vox.com report, is the largest increase ever recorded for any substance in the survey’s 43-year history. It was also the same year Juul, a device designed to deliver a mega-dose of nicotine, which was marketed for young people, took over the US e-cigarette market.

Are we going to wait until children of government officials fall victim to vaping before this government acts? Hopefully not.

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is bchanco@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco

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