Published on February 12, 2019

Part 2 of a very hot topic: Vapingpart 2 of a very hot topic: vaping

On January 1, 2019, it became more difficult for young people to smoke and vape in Massachusetts, thanks to a new law that raised the legal age to buy tobacco products—including e-cigarettes—from 18 to 21.

On April 1, 2019, Somerville will become the first municipality in Massachusetts to restrict the sale of e-cigarettes by banning the sale of electronic and menthol cigarettes in stores that are open to youths.

“I am elated about the laws, but there is so much more we need to do to keep these kids healthy. I’m concerned about Generation Z,” said Jeffrey Spillane, MD FACS, a thoracic Surgeon with Cape Cod Healthcare / Southeastern Surgical Associates.

Dr. Spillane has treated patients with lung cancer for most of his career and, as the father of three teens, is passionate about preventing cancer in future generations.

“More than half of all teens have vaped or Juuled and not many adults even know what those words mean,” said Dr. Spillane. “We are dealing with a national epidemic. E-cigarettes have created a very social phenomenon, yet neither teenagers nor adults fully understand the technology or its health impacts.”

Juul is a brand of vaporizer (vape), or e-cigarette, so cleverly packaged that most people don’t recognize them as e-cigarettes. Juuls and other vapes work by super-heating liquids to a point that they become a vapor able to be inhaled. Juul, which contains nicotine, is a billion-dollar business.

“Kids need to understand that when they are sharing a JUUL, they are hurting their friends,” Dr. Spillane emphasized.

Vaping Part I

Response to a recent Cape Cod Health News story on the subject showed how great the need is for quality information about vaping, Juuling and e-cigarettes in Massachusetts and throughout the U.S.

When the article was published (which also featured Dr. Spillane), several people shared their concerns via the comment section on Cape Cod Health News:

  • One Pennsylvania mother said: “I got the information I needed to talk with my teenage daughter who says vaping is a cool thing to do and the flavors are fun. She says vaping is nothing like smoking, but I was worried that there was nicotine involved and she could be getting addicted. Thanks for giving me the facts so that I had the confidence to address this with her.”
  • ER nurse Belinda Bachand wrote: “Thank you so much for sharing this information. I work in the ER and the amount of people who come in and say ‘I don’t smoke, I vape’ grows daily. And they literally have no idea the dangers to vaping. Now I can share more factual information with them.”

Dr. Spillane has given several talks since then and plans to meet with teachers and parents in Falmouth to answer questions and educate people about the dangers of inhaling superheated vapors that contain nicotine.

“I was recently surfing with a friend who is in his 50s. He reached to pick up something in the parking lot and asked what it was. When I told him it was a Juul, he still didn’t know what it was,” said Dr. Spillane.

“These e-cigarettes are made to look like a flash drive, and they come in appealing flavors like mango and crème brulee,” he said.

Know the Danger

Dr. Spillane pointed out the irony of how kids were raised to believe smoking cigarettes was bad for their health, yet they do not see the danger in vaping.

“We are finally winning the war against cigarettes,” he said. “Lung cancer is decreasing because fewer people are smoking. Now, even kids will tell you smoking is gross and it’s bad for you. But vaping or Juuling is the new cool thing to do, and I am very concerned that Generation Z is going to pay the price with their health in 20 years or so.”

Dr. Spillane believes parents, healthcare providers and educators need to find messages that resonate with young people. To do that, vaping needs to be understood from their standpoint. Here’s what he has learned:

  • Kids don’t understand the risks of using nicotine.
  • Teens don’t just pull out a Juul and use it alone. They smoke in groups. They share these bubblegum, cherry, and strawberry flavored products, passing them around school bathrooms, at concerts and elsewhere. They literally see it as hot new technology, and it’s all about being social.
  • I want kids to know they are being used by big businesses who are making billions of dollars a year on them. Cigarettes aren’t selling at the high rates they had been, so they found another way to boost their profits and teenagers are going to get hurt.
  • I believe teachers are the silent heroes who saw e-cigarettes come on the scene, become crazy popular, and then had to deal with students vaping in the school bathrooms for the past few years. They need our help.
  • New laws are good, but we are not going to beat a new technology like e-cigarettes with legislation. Teens are buying these online and at school for as little as $5, and the cool thing to do is share them. After generations, we managed to make it un-cool, even gross, to smoke cigarettes, and now we need to make e-cigarettes socially unacceptable.
  • As a chemistry major, I know how hot you have to make a syrup before it turns to vapor. We have to get the message out that vaping, Juuling and e-cigarettes superheat a liquid that you are putting into your lungs. I believe kids would avoid vaping if they understood the chemistry behind the technology.

“This is a national crisis. There’s big money behind e-cigarettes, and the only way I know to help Generation Z is to educate them in terms they are willing to understand,” said Dr. Spillane.

Additional information is available from the U.S. Surgeon General, stillblowingsmoke.org and by watching the video What happens to your body when you Vape for a month.