HOUSTON – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 30 people have died in the U.S. from vaping, including a 13-year-old child. More than 1,400 people have been hurt.
Doctors say more young people are becoming addicted to e-cigarettes. Fifteen percent of patients sent to hospitals after vaping are under 18 years old.
KPRC 2 reporter Sofia Ojeda spoke with a medical oncologist at Houston Methodist Hospital who said vaping was initially created to help smokers transition off of nicotine. However, vaping has created a stronger addiction that doctors say is about 10 times harder to quit.
"Vaping delivers nicotine and then other solvents into the lungs, so you get a very fast, very sharp rise in blood level of nicotine that causes a nicotine buzz," said Dr. Eric Bernicker, a medical oncologist at Houston Methodist Hospital. "It's pleasurable and very addictive."
That’s a huge concern when it comes to the vaping crisis in middle schools, Bernicker said. Children’s bodies are smaller and their lung volumes are different. This addiction may set them up for lung disease down the road. Bernicker said he has not seen more people coming in trying to quit, but parents are trying to get their teens to stop. Teachers, nurses and school principals are working concertedly to stop the epidemic.
"There are middle school teachers saying their kids are bouncing off the walls having withdrawal," said Bernicker. "Middle school bathrooms have taken doors off the stalls because so many kids go to vape during breaks."
Now the big hurdle: How to quit.
Bernicker said many people are just trying to stop vaping cold turkey, which could be a lot harder than trying to quit cigarettes because of the quick rise of nicotine in your blood.
Also most people are not looking to cessation programs that would help them. Houston Methodist has a smoking and vaping cessation program. It offers counseling and an approved nicotine replacement where the dose is tapered down.
"Remember in the cessation strategy, the idea is not to go from smoking two packs a day of cigarettes to vaping continuously," said Bernicker. "You have to taper down and use vaping as a tool to get off both products."
The best thing is for children not to start. Bernicker believes vaping should be banned altogether. He says the flavors offered are really appealing to kids because they like the taste and variety.
There are cessation programs that are designed to help you quit vaping. If you need help quitting then go to your doctor.