Generation Vape: The new era of lung injury

One in four high school students have tried vaping in the past 30 days, but the full extent of the health effects is still being studied.

What are the risks? How are researchers tackling the issue?

On March 10, community members learned the latest about vaping research and policy from a panel of experts at a special event hosted by Schulich Medicine & Dentistry and Lawson Health Research Institute at Museum London.

Moderated by Carly Weeks, health reporter for The Globe and Mail, the event included presentations and a panel discussion.

Lung imaging scientist Grace Parraga, PhD, a Professor with the Department of Medical Biophysics, presented alarming 3D images demonstrating the lung damage caused by vaping. “This is not like anything we’ve seen before in the lab,” she said. “These are new diseases. We don’t know why some people get ill and others do not.”

Parraga pointed to the technology and tools available at Western University and across London that will help researchers and clinicians better understand vaping-related lung injuries.

Members of the Human Environments Analysis Laboratory’s Youth Advisory Council also shared their perspectives on vaping. “I will go to the washroom at school and there will be at least six or seven people vaping,” said Morgan Seabrook, a high school student and member of the Council.

The group of young people used existing research and their own personal experience to inform a position paper on vaping that called for strict marketing rules and new safeguards on the online purchase of vaping products for anyone under the age of 19.

“We need to push back on the idea that vaping is all about harm reduction. We’re seeing mounting evidence in the scientific literature about the inherent risks,” said Dr. Karen Bosma, an Associate Professor with the Department of Medicine, who presented on the first reported case of vaping-related lung illness in Canada.