As vaping is becoming increasingly popular among adolescents, there are growing reports of teens and young adults developing serious lung issues apparently linked to the activity.

Here's what parents need to know:

Q. How do vaping devices work?

A. Most vaping products heat liquid in a cartridge that contains a fluid with nicotine and flavoring. The fluid may be flavored to resemble the taste of a traditional cigarette, fruits or other foods.

Q. What do vape pens and other vaping devices look like?

A. That can vary. Vape pens can look like traditional cigarettes or elongated tubes that can be round or flattened. They can be any color. Other vaping devices are larger and often about the size of a pack of cigarettes with a large mouthpiece.

Q. What substances are people using when they vape? 

A. Reputable manufacturers will label the ingredients in their cartridges, but federal regulations haven’t kept pace with the growth of vaping's popularity. There’s no control over the substances used in bootleg or black market cartridges, and that’s one of the issues in determining the cause of the rise in recent pulmonary illness cases. Vitamin E oil has been traced to some of the illnesses, but tetrahydrocannabinol, known as THC, also is involved in most of the cases that have been rigorously examined.

Q. Why are mostly teens and users in their early 20s getting sick from vaping? 

A. Vaping consumers tend to be younger, though use extends across all age groups. Because more younger people vape, statistically more younger people would get sick.

Q. Do experts know what's causing the illnesses?

A. They’re trying to find out. A study in the online version of the New England Journal of Medicine reported Friday that 84 percent of vapers who have gotten ill used cartridges with THC in them.

Q. Isn't vaping still safer than smoking?

A. Anecdotal evidence from smokers who have made the switch would suggest it is, but recent cases of lung illness resulting in the deaths of five people demonstrate that there are still many questions about quality control and long-term usage.

Q. My kid is 18. Is it legal for him vape or buy vaping devices or materials? 

A. It depends where you live. In Ohio, you will have to be 21 to buy a nicotine product starting in mid-October. Some municipalities have similar restrictions.

Q. What help is available for adolescents and young adults who want to quit vaping nicotine products?

A. Plenty of help is available for those who want to quit. Here are a few resources:

• My Life, My Quit (teen vaping and tobacco cessation program): mylifemyquit.com Call or Text: 855-891-9989.

• Nicotine Anonymous: Meets 7:30-8:30 p.m. every Tuesday downstairs in the United Methodist Church in Stow, 4880 Fishcreek Road.  Call 330-673-6784.

• Cleveland Clinic Akron General: Offers a free six-session smoking cessation class using the American Lung Association’s Freedom from Smoking program taught by tobacco treatment specialists. Visit https://events.clevelandclinic.org/?months=1 to find available sessions.

• Summa Health: Free classes held at Summa Akron City Hospital, Summa Barberton and Summa Wadsworth-Rittman Medical Center.  Call 800-237-8662.

• Western Reserve Hospital in Cuyahoga Falls: Free group sessions available on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Call 330-929-LUNG (5864).

• Ohio Tobacco Quit Line (1-800-QUIT-NOW): Offers free or low-cost programs to quit smoking to the uninsured, pregnant women, Medicaid recipients, and insured members of the Ohio Tobacco Collaborative.

 

Sources: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Summit County Public Health and reporting by Beacon Journal staff writer Alan Ashworth.