A former Surgeon General of the United States is concerned about the rise of e-cigarette use and the corresponding reports of people dying or being sickened by mysterious respiratory illnesses in 46 states.
Dr. Antonia Novello, who was the first woman and the first Hispanic person to serve as "the nation’s doctor," believes that vaping is dangerous and that not enough people understand the concern.
"The scarring [that some patients have experienced in their lungs] is for life. There is no way it is going to come back to the way you felt before," Novello said. "For one stupid vape? Have respect for yourself and for your lungs."
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Novello is particularly proud about her past victories against the tobacco industry, which include her public fight to combat advertising — like the cartoon "Joe Camel" — that appealed to children.
But tobacco use, which includes electronic cigarettes and vaping, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is on the rise among young people in recent years.
E-cigarette use increased from 11.7% to 20.8% among high school students from 2017 to 2018, which the CDC characterized as a "considerable increase." During this same time, no change was found in the use of other tobacco products, including cigarettes.
"The FDA has to begin looking into this immediately so they can legislate," Dr. Novello said about the rise in e-cigarette usage. "People believe that it is healthy alternative to smoking cigarettes. It is not."
To date, more than 800 people have been hospitalized in a growing outbreak of vaping-related lung illnesses and 14 people have been killed. According to the CDC, the cases have not been definitively linked to one vaping product or substance, but many of the patients have a reported history of using vape products that contain THC.
Novello is in Fort Worth this week for several speaking engagements. On Tuesday, she will speak to students and staff on the campus of the new TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine. On Wednesday, she will speak to students at Tarrant County College during the school’s celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. And on Friday, Novello will address a gathering of the Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.