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Airmen who vape accept unnecessary risks

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Sadie Colbert
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
With the use of electronic cigarettes on the rise, concerned Air Force health officials warn of the possible side effects of these devices.

According to Alicia Ferris-Dannenberg, the 509th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron health promotion coordinator, vape use at Team Whiteman increased from 5.2 to 9.5 percent from 2017 to 2019.

“Many people believe there isn’t any harm with vaping because they can control their nicotine intake and tar doesn’t build up in their lungs,” Ferris-Dannenberg said. “What they don’t realize is they take in heavy metals from other components caused by the chemical reaction creating the vapor.”

As of October 15, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 1,479 lung injury cases associated with the use of e-cigarette, or vaping, products from 49 states, except Alaska, the District of Columbia, and one U.S. territory.

“The nicotine itself thins the lungs’ and airways’ linings,” Ferris-Dannenberg said. “In addition to the respiratory risks, service members who smoke or vape experience poor wound healing.”

She said negative side effects could jeopardize our workforce and Air Force Global Strike Command’s mission to be always ready.

Hidden tetrahydrocannabinol—THC—found in vape juice

In two states, 53 cases of respiratory illnesses hospitalized 50 patients, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. Hospital researchers found THC products in 84 percent of cases.

Due to the reports of respiratory illnesses, the Food and Drug Administration warns users to be aware of products containing THC mixtures in vape juices as they investigate vaping products and the correlation between illness and inhalation of THC.

Although the FDA can’t conclude THC oil as the leading cause in the respiratory diseases, they suggest consumers to stay away from street vaping products or adding THC to modify vape juices.

Not only does this affect Airmen’s health, it can endanger their careers due to Air Force regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice banning the ingestion of hemp products outlined in AFMAN 44-197, Military Drug Demand Reduction Program.

“Ensuring our Airmen are fit to fight is a priority for Team Whiteman,” said Col. Jeffrey Schreiner, 509th Bomb Wing commander. “Airmen using e-cigarettes should know the dangers and risks they accept by vaping and research vendors they’re purchasing from, or quit vaping or smoking altogether—we have resources to assist Airmen making this step.”

The CDC recommends adults who quit vaping nicotine, avoid returning to cigarettes.

“The 509th Medical Group hosts nicotine cessation classes,” she said. “Members can also request the help of the Behavioral and Health Optimization Program or schedule a visit with their provider to obtain medication to help fight nicotine addictions.”

To learn more about alternatives to e-cigarettes or general smoking, visit the Smoking and Tobacco Use section on the CDC website.