Vape from an e-cig. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Staff at University of Washington Medicine are seeing a rush of students trying to get help quitting vaping.
This comes as more vaping-related illnesses have been reported across the country. For health officials at UW, there’s concern that the habit is especially addictive the younger a student is.
“When you start using nicotine products under the age of 26, nicotine actually rewires your brain to predispose you to addiction for the rest of your life,” said UW Medicine’s Patricia Atwater.
Atwater runs a tobacco cessation program at the school’s student health center, and has even seen students switch to cigarettes out of fear over vaping-related illnesses. Suffice it to say, that switch isn’t something she — or most health experts — would recommend.
Instead, she advises students to wean off the habit altogether.
“The addiction to nicotine can be treated by replacing the missing nicotine with nicotine replacement therapy, like the patch, or the lozenge, or the gum,” she described.
In total, federal health officials have identified 380 cases of vaping-related illnesses across 36 states and the Virgin Islands. Six of those cases have been fatal, seen in California, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, and Oregon.
The exact cause of these illnesses largely remains a mystery, but it’s believed that it can be traced to a chemical in vape juice called Vitamin E acetate.
In early September, Seattle and King County Public Health issued a warning that cautions smokers on the associated risks of vaping.
That occurred shortly after Milwaukee city officials issued a statement of their own, urging people to stop vaping immediately in the face of potential health risks. Meanwhile, the City of Seattle is weighing a vaping ban akin to one passed in San Francisco earlier this summer.
“Bold move by San Francisco. It’s time to have this discussion in Seattle,” Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan tweeted in June.
Recent data claims that while the overall teen smoking rate is at an all-time low, 20 percent of high school students and 5 percent of middle schoolers use e-cigarettes. Overall, that marks a 78 percent increase year-over-year.
Washington state recently raised the age to buy tobacco products and e-cigarettes to 21.