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Vaping Facts Versus Fiction: Nicotine, THC And The New Mystery Illness

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) - Though there are varying conclusions in health research findings on tobacco and marijuana, the range strikes some as jarring after generations of Americans being told smoking endangers their health.

While intended as a replacing to smoking tobacco, the Centers for Disease Control say the amount of nicotine in commercially sold e-cigarettes has steadily increased during the past five years. A JUUL pod, one of the most popular brands of e-cigarettes, contains as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular burn-and-inhale smoking cigarettes.

While cigarette smoking is the top risk factor for lung cancer, some of the scientific evidence suggests there's no link between marijuana smoking and lung cancer. That's according to a 2017 federal report that rounded up nearly two decades of studies on marijuana, research that's been limited by the federal government's classification of marijuana as a controlled substance like heroin.

MORE: Survey Finds Thousands Of NYC Middle School Students Are Vaping

A new survey finds thousands of city middle school students are vaping, even as a lung-related illness surging across the nation has created another mystery around such devices.

Patients have experienced symptoms including difficulty breathing and chest pain along with vomiting, diarrhea, fever and fatigue.

According to Upstate New York Poison Center, calls about using e-cigarettes - both for tobacco and THC from marijuana - have more than doubled since last year.

MORE: Doctor Explains What You Need To Know About Vaping-Related Illnesses

While the new FDA commissioner is not expected to rule on tobacco e-cigarette regulations until 2021, no federal decisions will apply to marijuana or THC-based devices which are still illegal and unregulated for quality or safety. States were asked to submit their data to the CDC for further analysis.

Earlier this month, a paper published the New England Journal of Medicine suggested laying blame at vaping THC from marijuana in addition to or instead of nicotine.

Below are lists of facts posted online by the CDC regarding the current state of e-cigarettes, vaping and two main ways users get nicotine and THC, tobacco and marijuana.

Vaping, E-Cigarette & JUUL Fast Facts

From the CDC Website:

  • E-cigarettes produce an aerosol by heating a liquid that usually contains nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals that help to make the aerosol.
  • The liquid used in e-cigarettes often contains nicotine and flavorings. This liquid is sometimes called "e-juice," "e-liquid," "vape juice," or "vape liquid."
  • Users inhale e-cigarette aerosol into their lungs. Bystanders can also breathe in this aerosol when the user exhales it into the air.
  • E-cigarette devices can be used to deliver marijuana and other drugs.
  • JUUL is a brand of e-cigarette that is shaped like a USB flash drive. Like other e-cigarettes, JUUL is a battery-powered device that heats a nicotine-containing liquid to produce an aerosol that is inhaled.
  • All JUUL e-cigarettes have a high level of nicotine. According to the manufacturer, a single JUUL pod contains as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes.
  • E-cigarette aerosol is not harmless "water vapor." The e-cigarette aerosol that users breathe from the device and exhale can contain harmful and potentially harmful substances, including nicotine; ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs; flavoring such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to a serious lung disease; volatile organic compounds; cancer-causing chemicals; heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead.
  • It is difficult for consumers to know what e-cigarette products contain. For example, some e-cigarettes marketed as containing zero percent nicotine have been found to contain nicotine.

More info and citations:

Tobacco Fast Facts

From the CDC website:

  • Smoking leads to disease and disability and harms nearly every organ of the body.
  • Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death.
  • The tobacco industry spends billions of dollars each year on marketing cigarettes.
  • Smoking costs the United States billions of dollars each year.
  • States do not spend much of the money they get from tobacco taxes and lawsuits to prevent smoking and help smokers quit. CDC recommends that states spend 12% of those funds on tobacco control.
  • 14.0% of all adults (34.3 million people): 15.8% of men, 12.2% of women were current cigarette smokers in 2017.
  • Thousands of young people start smoking cigarettes every day.
  • Many adult cigarette smokers want to quit smoking.

More info and citations:

Marijuana Fast Facts

From the CDC Website:

  • Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the United States, with approximately 22.2 million users each month.
  • Research shows that about 1 in 10 marijuana users will become addicted. For people who begin using before the age of 18, that number rises to 1 in 6.
  • Marijuana use directly affects the brain — specifically the parts of the brain responsible for memory, learning, attention, decision making, coordination, emotions, and reaction time. Developing brains, like those in babies, children, and teens, are especially susceptible to the adverse effects of marijuana.
  • Eating foods or drinking beverages that contain marijuana have some different risks than smoking marijuana, including a greater risk of poisoning.
  • Long-term or frequent marijuana use has been linked to increased risk of psychosis or schizophrenia in some users.
  • Using marijuana during pregnancy may increase the baby's risk for developmental problems.

More info and citations:

If You Need Help Now...

For users with immediate medical questions about e-cigarette use, the closest local poison control center can be found through the American Association of Poison Control Centers at 1-800-222-1222 or by visiting for state-by-state listings including:

New York City Poison Control Center
New York City Bureau of Public Health
455 First Avenue
Room 123, Box 81
New York, NY 10016
Medical Director: Mark Su
Service area: Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Manhattan, Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester

Upstate New York Poison Center
750 East Adams Street
Syracuse, NY 13210
Clinical Director: Christine Stork, PharmD, DABAT, FAACT
Medical Director: Richard Cantor, MD, FAAP, FACEP

New Jersey Poison Information and Education System
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Ambulatory Care Center (ACC)
140 Bergen Street, Suite G1600
P.O. Box 1709
Newark, NJ 07107-1709
Executive Director/Medical Director: Diane Calello, MD
Managing Director: Bruce Ruck, PharmD, RPh
Service area: State of New Jersey

Connecticut Poison Center
UConn Health
263 Farmington Avenue
Farmington, CT 06030-5365
Managing Director: Kathy Hart, MD, CSPI
Medical Director: Suzanne Doyon, MD, FACMT, ASAM
Service area: State of Connecticut

(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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