FDA to Crackdown on Unauthorized Flavored E-Cigarettes

But It May Not Address Health Concerns for Multi-Substance Users

In the summer of 2017, CVHS student Buddy* overdosed on Xanax and ended up unconscious in the hospital.

“When I realized what was occurring, in my head I was like, wow, like am I really that stupid to like, be here right now, and like I could have actually died,” Buddy said.

For Buddy, it was a moment of clarity. For Buddy, the Xanax overdose goes along with a habit of vaping and multi-drug usage.

The recent outbreak of illnesses among e-cigarette users have raised health concerns for young users, like Buddy.

As a result of recent outbreaks, Trump announced the FDA would crackdown on unauthorized flavored vapes, while college campuses and public institutions across the country, like Texas A&M, are banning vaping altogether.

Vaping has risen dramatically in popularity around the world as smoking rates drop along with it, especially among the youth. From 2017 to 2019, vaping rates among high school seniors increased from 11% to 25%, 8% to 20% among high school sophomores, and 4% to 9% among 8th graders, according to preliminary data from the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey.

Vaping has not been the only issue among the younger end of Gen Z, as it is also the idea of potential contamination and counterfeit drugs being sold to minors. As that problem is arising, so are the hospitalization rates due to vaping/drug-related illnesses.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), as of October 15th of this year, 1,479 lung injury cases and 33 deaths have been associated with e-cigarette use or vaping. 15 percent of the reported illnesses are occurring among people under 18 years old while 21 percent among people ages 18 to 21. To date, national and state data suggest that products containing THC, particularly those obtained off the street or from other informal sources, such as friends, family members, or illicit dealers, are linked to most of the cases and play a major role in the outbreak. THC is a crystalline compound that is the main active ingredient of cannabis.

With the FDA working towards a policy to outlaw all vapes, it raises a question of whether such a policy would address drug usage among youth or would youth, like Buddy who is a multi-substance user, just turn to other illicit drugs.

Not only has it been vaping, but substance abuse has been popularized among Generation Z. Most of the current student population is unaware of the dangers that come along with the secondary effects. People may have gotten “lucky” and not have been harmed, but that doesn’t narrow the chances any less. The consequences affect the youth community, but some feel there is no public discussion about it.

Buddy was an ongoing user of multiple substances and he thought he wouldn’t be affected until he became one of the many to overdose. He didn’t realize the effects and dangers of the drugs he had been taking.

“I bought it from a dealer,” Buddy said. The dealer had been selling to minors.

“I first tried it maybe a year and a half prior to that, but I wasn’t like a regular user of it, maybe just once or twice a month,” Buddy said.

Leading up to the day of the overdose, Buddy was unaware of whether or not the Xanax was laced, on top of that, he took a heavy dosage.

“I just, I thought I could like take more than, what I actually could,” Buddy said.

When they found Buddy he was rushed into the ER and had to get his stomach pumped.

“The side effects hit first, but afterward, I started to feel really lightheaded, then I started to sweat, eventually, I coughed and threw up, after that, I blacked out. After I had blacked out, I had a seizure and I fell on the floor. The doctors told me, if I had hit my head on something hard enough, I could have died,” said Buddy.

He shared his story with Upstream News in hopes of helping someone who is on the verge of mental collapse or is wanting to dive in the wrong pool and is thinking about trying any type of drug.

The changes are if youth are thinking about attempting any type of vape or drug, they are taking on a lot of risks. As a minor, youth are most likely to be obtaining drugs from the black market and allowing added chemicals to infiltrate their system. According to acting FDA Commissioner Norman Sharpless, “the FDA has received 300 samples from drug-related injury patients and tested 150. About 70 percent were products containing THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana, and about half of those contain vitamin E oil, which has no business being in the lungs.”

Black market products, which tend to be cheaper than legally sold items, are drawing more and more critical examination. According to experts in the legal and illicit cannabis markets, as well as doctors and health officials, “black market operators are using more thickening agents to dilute THC oil because of a crackdown by state authorities that have made the oil scarcer on the black market.” With that being said, this opens the gates for a potential flood of parasites, contaminated THC and vitamin E acetate, with vitamin E oil in varying concentrations, all harmful to anyone, let alone children.

The FDA seems to think that a policy would mend the vape/drug-related issues among as it is disproportionately affecting children. They have introduced a vaping ban, which would upend the e-cigarette market if finalized, would go into effect 30 days after. The restrictions would be lifted only for products that the FDA approves. Is this really the solution to this drug-related societal health issue, or is it only increasing the illegal drug distribution to the youth?

Buddy shared this traumatic portion of his life to inform others how it affected not only him but his relationships with his friends and family. Buddy said he “lost the trust of his family” and that they “treated” him “differently.”

When asked if he would do things differently, Buddy stated, “I did feel ashamed, but it was more of a feeling of humiliation and stupidity. Like, how was I that dumb to do that? I feel like my life today would be a lot different. I would go back and undo it mainly just to regain that trust from my parents” Buddy said.

*Pseudonym used to protect the identity of CVHS students.