New Jersey-based hospitals have witnessed e-cigarette use increase about two-third since 2017. This data has encouraged experts to figure out how this upsurge of vaping is likely to affect their overall health of patients, as well as those who haven’t been affected by the mysterious vaping-related lung illness.
On Thursday, the New Jersey Hospital Association published data showing the 72 hospitals associated with it are at top of the ladder when it comes to taking care of over 15,800 patients who have been using e-cigarettes, or other vape products in 2019. The number of those using these devices was 6,000 in 2017. Patients were treated for all sorts of conditions, not just those linked to vaping.
Collected from insurance claims of those hospitalized, the data indicated an alarming upsurge in teenage vaping. Back in 2017, a report from NJHA showed e-cigarettes were garnering huge popularity among people as young as 13, but now it begins closer to age 11.
With Middlesex County showing the highest use rate, patients most likely to reports e-cigarette use was between 18 and 24, according to released data. A large number of these users were African America or white men, white women, Asians, and Hispanics of all groups much less likely to engage in vaping.
In addition to what media is reporting
Media reports primarily have been focusing on cases of the mysterious lung illness that experts say is caused due to vaping. The NJHA, on the other hand, is hoping that its ongoing research will spill the beans on the larger impact of vaping on their patients. The organization is leaving no stone unturned in its attempt to get more information about those using vaping devices, and how what role can hospitals play in restricting what it deems as a growing public health threat.
Former state health commissioner and NJHA President and CEO Cathleen Bennett said, “There is a collective concern and interest on behalf of New Jersey hospitals to work together. The research was crafted to figure out “what is the real penetration of e-cigarette use and what is its impact” on patients.
According to Bennett, it is imperative for member hospitals to learn how can they formally include vaping while making patient records. The organization will soon come up with a toolkit for healthcare providers, whether they are doing private practice or associated with a hospital. This toolkit will help them to use code for e-cigarette use so that it can be easily identified in the diagnoses and treatment plans.
With these tools, “we can do a better job of not just counting e-cigarette use but understanding what is happening throughout the disparate populations in our state,” Bennett explained.
The Requirement for Unvarying Data
Sean Hopkins, who spearheads the NJHA’s Center for Health Analytics, Research, and Transformation, which also conducted the review says “the bottom line is we need good, consistent data in order to draw conclusions. But this is an issue that is out of control and that is severely impacting health status.”
Bennett pointed out that a few hospitals are offering other patients or public, services designed to minimize vaping among youth. Teenage vaping soared about a whopping 80 percent nationwide among users that were still in high school and increased 50 percent among middle-school students.
Touted as one of the state’s biggest health care networks, Hackensack Meridian Health devoted $1 million in November to its “Take Vape Away” campaign, which comprises donations to community groups, and schools to enlighten youngsters about the dangers, along with collaboration with mental health providers and a public health study.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was inspecting about 1,900 cases of what it calls EVALI (e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury) as of Tuesday. The agency has also confirmed that EVALI has claimed 37 deaths, including one in New Jersey so far.
The state Department of Health says New Jersey has reported 27 confirmed EVALI cases, with 30 others still considered probable, and another 29 are still under review. Among those who reported the illness, the median age of the patients was 21 years with men outnumbering women by more than two to one.
Vaping involves the use of a vaping device that heats a nicotine-containing liquid (e-liquid or e-juice) or cannabinoids to create vapor. While it does not produce tar, which is known for causing cancer, details about the overall health impact the flavorings and additives infused in e-cigarettes have on the vaper are few and far between.
Moreover, e-cigs can lead to nicotine addiction. “The e-cigarette is essentially a delivery device for some kind substance,” Hopkins said.
Appointed by Gov. Phil Murphy, a task force has come up with numerous solutions that are likely to restrict use among teenagers. Among other solutions, the task force suggests banning flavored e-cigarette products that experts say are the root of the lung illnesses. A bill introduced by Sen. Joe Vitale (D-Middlesex) is likely to bring this to fruition.
Investigating Vaping Related Health Issues
Dr. Eric Costanzo, a pulmonologist Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, which is member of the Hackensack Meridian system said that a large number of patients he treated with vaping related health issues came in complaining of shortness of breath from what looks like congestion, fever and a slew of other symptoms that seem to be some sort of an infection.
“You do an extensive infectious work up and it’s negative and when you’re doing a patient history and you ask the good questions, you learn these patients have been vaping,” Dr. Costanzo said.
The data accumulated by NJHA from the beginning of the year through August, which came from inpatient, as well as emergency room discharge records, revealed that about 10,000 patients that reported vape use, five diagnosis codes were most common. The top two associated with chest pain, leading to shortness of breath, fainting spells, alcohol abuse, and lower back pain, Costanzo said.
The currently available information isn’t sufficient to confirm whether or not these diagnoses are related to vaping, Bennett said. It is important for public health officials to carefully monitor nicotine dependence. While the number of youngsters smoking traditional cigarettes has reduced recently, the upsurge in adolescent usage suggests more and more teenagers are getting hooked on to vaping.
Costanzo says there is a possibility that the numbers will “spike back up” for teenagers “unless we hit this (anti-vape message) aggressively and consistently.” He has teamed up with HMH to divulge more details about e-cigarettes by speaking at schools and counsel his own teenage children on how to deal with peer pressure to try vaping.
“We need to be aggressive in our preventative campaign. We have a moral obligation to get into the schools and educate the children. The gravity of this needs to be expressed,” Costanzo added.