When Sophia Thomas, DNP, FNP, PNP, FAANP, recently saw a 16-year-old patient suffering from a chronic cough, she immediately considered the possibility that vaping could be the source of the problem.
Sophia Thomas, FNP
Thomas, who works at a Daughters of Charity Health Center in New Orleans, knew the parent in the room might not be aware — or pleased — that the teen was using e-cigarettes, so Thomas took the patient aside to broach the subject. The teen was, in fact, vaping, and Thomas took the opportunity to explain the vaping health risks.
“I think many nurses, doctors and parents underestimate how many people are using e-cigarettes,” said Thomas, who is also president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.
According to the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey, more than 20% of high school students reported they had used an e-cigarette within the past 30 days. This was nearly double the percentage from 2017, and the increase may be due in part to the flash drive-like e-cigarettes popular among youth, according to the study authors.
Vaping health risks include lung injury
The negative health consequences of using these products has surfaced in recent months, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting a total of more than 2,000 cases of e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury, or EVALI, and 39 confirmed deaths as of Nov. 2, 2019. For perspective, as of Oct. 28, 2019, the number of lung injury cases was 1,479 and the number of confirmed deaths was 33.
More than half of the patients with lung injury were 24 years old or younger.
Statistics like these highlight the importance of educating both patients and larger communities about vaping health risks, said Jenny Prochnow, DNP, MBA, RN, a nurse who has led presentations about this topic at schools, police agencies and healthcare organizations for the past several years.
Prochnow, an associate professor in the graduate nursing program at Winona State University in Minnesota, was motivated to increase awareness about the dangers of this trend when she discovered many providers didn’t have answers to the questions parents were asking about e-cigarettes.
One of the most common public misconceptions is that vaping products are safe, said Prochnow, yet they contain cancer-causing chemicals, heavy metals such as lead and nickel and ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs, according to the CDC.
Most e-cigarettes also contain nicotine, which can harm parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood and impulse control in the developing adolescent brain, according to the CDC.
“I talk to teen patients about the fact that brain development continues into the mid-20s, and nicotine is highly addictive,” Thomas said. “It can increase the risk of using cigarettes in the future.”
Pamela McGee, FNP-BC
Although the CDC is still investigating the causes of vaping health risks, many of the …read more
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