ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The hope for e-cigarettes was a healthier alternative for adult smokers, but vaping has become a public health concern, especially for middle and high school students.

In 2020, the Food and Drug Administration enforced a policy to regulate the e-cigarette industry. However, utilizing synthetic nicotine became the perfect way for companies to get around those FDA regulations.

Vaping companies like Puff Bar swapped nicotine from tobacco plants and put synthetic nicotine into their flavored e-cigarette products. Thus, the businesses could market and make money in a loophole safe from regulations.

“There’s cotton candy, there’s bubble gum,” Brandi Ewing, Director of Respiratory Services at St. Peter’s Health Partners, said. “The problem with it is there are so many different chemicals and things that are in the ‘vape juice’ itself, and for a while, it was unregulated at all.”

On top of flavoring, Ewing added that e-cigarettes are designed to look like your standard USB or even a pen used for doing homework. 

As of April 14, the FDA closed the loophole by implementing a law to regulate synthetic nicotine products. Ewing said the crackdown couldn’t come soon enough as the chemicals inside vape products are taking a severe toll on patients. 

EVALI is the term for lung disease caused by vaping. Ewing said St. Peter’s also sees the rare diagnosis of Lipoid Pneumonia in patients who use oil-based vaping cartridges. 

“It makes it that it not only damages the lung tissue, but it’s also coating sections of your lung where you’re supposed to be exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide,” Ewing said. “So, they’re not even functioning correctly. So, it’s really bad.”

Are you or a loved one looking for a strategy to quit vaping? Ewing recommended talking to a health care professional to make a “quit plan.”