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Before I jump in on the present vaping issues, I’d like to show you some of what I wrote three years ago, edited for brevity.

“I have been anti-electronic cigarettes for quite some time for lots of reasons. I’m worried about the chemicals in them. Some studies have shown they contain heavy-metal toxins. I’m worried that they’re a gateway to tobacco use because many teenagers have embraced them.

“We need stronger laws nationwide to keep e-cigs out of their hands. The Food and Drug Administration is finally taking preliminary steps to regulate e-cigarettes, but until better oversight is in place we have an issue.

“If you’re a smoker and you’re using e-cigs to cut down on smoking, don’t do it. You may think you’re helping your health by smoking less tobacco because you’re ‘vaping,’ but you might have your head in the sand. E-cigarettes might prove to be just as bad as regular cigarettes in the long run.

“Remember, it takes the average lung cancer victim 100,000 to 200,000 cigarettes before the grim reaper knocks on their door. Perhaps it will be the same for e-cigs. Nothing is safe to inhale in this world except good, clean, pollutant-free air.”

Now that is certainly an I-told-you-so statement. Sadly, it’s proven to be absolutely true when you look at the number of vaping-related lung issue cases racking up, there are at least 1,000 to date.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Epidemiologists agree there were many cases of pneumonia and death caused by e-cigarettes that just weren’t reported because no one put the connection together. No one knows what’s causing the problem. But pathology research out of the Mayo Clinic appears to show that it’s a direct chemical injury similar to ones seen in toxic chemical fumes and poisonous gases.

Lately, I have some people telling me it’s the marijuana e-cigs that are the problem. It’s the “fraudulent” e-cigs that are causing the issue. Don’t believe that garbage.

We don’t really know what’s in e-cigarettes because they are not regulated. No one is watching the store, be it name-brand e-cigs or otherwise. Government regulators are looking the other way and you, the consumer, are putting your head in the sand if you think they’re safe.

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So you may try to argue that e-cigs are safer than traditional cigarettes, but I think this latest outbreak of vaping issues belies that idea. How many teen smokers get pneumonia and die from cigarettes? They may die when they’re older, but not when they’re 19.

My thoughts on this are unchanged. Put that toxic chemical stuff in your lungs — I don’t care what it is — and you suffer the consequences.

Now on to those candy flavored e-cigs. Those are the ones that kids just love to vape. One in 5 high school students and 5% of all middle schoolers vaped within the last month. With names like Candy Crush, Blue Fuzz, and Kiwi Apple Strawberry who do you think they’re trying to attract?

Wake up folks! It’s not the 40-year-old smoker who’s trying to quit – it’s the 16-year-old teen who’s trying to look sexy. How can those manufacturers put on a straight face and say – no these are just for adults. Jeeeze. I think the government is right to ban all flavored e-cigs because they ARE the gateway teen drug.

We have to protect our children by not offering “candy to babies” — in this case, sweetened smoke to teens. It’s clear our state and federal governments have NOT been on the side of teen safety by allowing this stuff to be available.

That said, I am not for banning all sales of e-cigs, just like I don’t think tobacco products including cigarettes and cigars should be banned. I do think these products should be regulated so you, the adult consumer of e-cigs, know what you’re getting.

The FDA regulates food and medicines, making sure products meet certain standards, so it has the power to regulate e-cigs. Then you could by a “brand name” that would be held responsible for making sure what you read on the label is what’s actually in the chemical product you’re putting into your lungs.

E-cigs, properly manufactured, might or might not be safer than tobacco. We won’t know that for years. But we do know tobacco is harmful in its “natural” form.

My spin: You have the right to kill yourself with tobacco — I think you should have the right, as an adult, to kill yourself with e-cigs. There might be “safe” e-cigs, but right now the jury says they’re dangerous until proven otherwise. Stay well.

This column provides general health information. Always consult your personal health care provider about concerns. No ongoing relationship of any sort is implied or offered by Dr. Paster to people submitting questions. Any opinions expressed by Dr. Paster in his columns are personal and are not meant to represent or reflect the views of SSM Health.

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