The E-Cigarette Epidemic: How Unhealthy Is Vaping?

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

With the recent headlines of illnesses and deaths attributed to vaping and the CEO of Juul promptly resigning, the nation’s attention is focused on e-cigarettes. So what is vaping? And what exactly is the threat it poses to our youth? In the first episode of a series on vaping, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen describe the physiological issues associated with e-cigarettes, and why their marketing campaigns have become so problematic.

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Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. In our podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics where we have been transforming lives for 30 years using tools like brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information, visit
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is also brought to you by Brain MD where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to
Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome back. Was thinking we're going to call this Vampire Week but ultimately, we're going to talk about vaping. But before we do, for those of you that are watching this on video, you notice I shaved all my hair off. And I just have to tell the story that my wife is in love with two actors, Jason Statham and the Rock.
Tana Amen: So basically most of the actors I like that I love on screen are bald.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Have no hair.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Nothing. And so I went to the barber and I showed them a picture of Jason Statham and I said, make me look like him because I mean when you go bald it's just so irritating because hair just like sticks up everywhere. It's like I have none, but it's irritating. And so I've been saying I was going to do this for a year and so I showed him a picture, he did all the things that he could do and then he gave me the mirror to look at and I'm like, but I don't look like Jason Statham.
Tana Amen: He said, I look like the Rock. I can't pay you because I looked like the Rock. Not Jason Statham. I just died. That was so funny.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Anyways, a little glimpse into the neuroses of The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast.
Tana Amen: Yes, you'll get more of it because we're going to talk all about toxins and natural makeup. I'm going all natural and wearing a lot less makeup in general. But so you're going to hear more about our neurotic stuff that we do at home as we go. But today we're talking about vaping.
Dr. Daniel Amen: We are and The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. We also have a new feature called brain in the news and we're going to do that in episode three. But there's so much in the news about vaping. I woke up this morning and the CEO of Juul was fired and-
Tana Amen: Am I supposed to feel bad?
Dr. Daniel Amen: We've been talking about if I was enabled ruler, how would I create mental illness in America? Well I would create vaping companies that basically market to children.
Tana Amen: Well and they'd make things that taste good and look cool. And so there was a high school that my daughter used to go to before we started homeschooling. They did a locker search because it was such a problem. So many kids were doing it. They did a locker search, they were going to search everyone's lockers. So of course, what do the kids do? They go and they run in and get everything out of their lockers and all of the toilets got stopped up, because they all tried to flush them down the toilet. So yeah, it's a big problem.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So humans will always invent ways to hurt themselves.
Tana Amen: Which is so weird, right? You would think self preservation.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Weird. And Juul, I think one of the reasons they got in trouble, it was really marketing vaping as a healthy form of smoking. And when you vape your not inhaling a lot of the tar and other carcinogenic things, you're just getting pure nicotine and heated up, and people don't understand that when you inhale fire or things that are really hot, what you're doing is you're damaging the very delicate thin layer in your lungs. Those little air pockets-
Tana Amen: The alveoli.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Call the alveoli that then what what you're doing is you're burning them up and you're making it harder to get oxygen into your body. And why do we need oxygen? It runs every cell in your body and your brain. 2% of your body's weight, but it uses 20% of the oxygen in your body.
Tana Amen: So we also need to talk about the illnesses and the deaths related to vaping that are becoming an epidemic. So there's nine deaths now, 530 illnesses, people who've become ill, who've gone into, many in the ICU, they're on ventilators. And the question I have, because I used to work in the ICU with people, ventilators, what they were describing sounded almost like pneumonia, right? So it sounded like some form of pneumonia. So my question is, was it a type of aspiration pneumonia? Was it something, a bacterial thing that's in the vape? What's causing this?
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, so the theory, at least at the moment, especially with the flavored vaping, is that there's a vitamin E acetate byproduct that was people were reacting to in a negative way.
Tana Amen: So almost like an aspiration pneumonia then?
Dr. Daniel Amen: I'm not sure, but I actually did a show about 18 months ago with Dr. Oz for the Dr. Oz Show where he was vaping caffeine. And so it was really interesting because I scanned him while he was vaping caffeine. And what we showed is it literally activated his occipital lobes. So that's the visual cortex, which meant if on his set he saw one of the cute interns walk by, he'd be paying more attention to that.
Tana Amen: Well let's just he'd be more likely to, let's not say he did or he will.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well I don't know.
Tana Amen: Right. But he could be.
Dr. Daniel Amen: But he would be more likely to pay attention, but his frontal lobes dropped-
Tana Amen: That's not good.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Which means he's more likely to make a bad decision and perhaps lose half of his net worth and visit his children on the weekends.
Tana Amen: That's so awful.
Dr. Daniel Amen: But what we saw is, so you're getting a high concentration of nicotine, marijuana or caffeine, whatever it is your vaping.
Tana Amen: Because it's wax pens are another thing.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Whatever, you're vaping and it's going to have a more powerful impact. And that's one of the issues with marijuana today is it's not the same. It's not your grandfather's marijuana. It's much more potent and-
Tana Amen: I just had a vision of a grandfather sitting in his rocking chair smoking pot.
Dr. Daniel Amen: But you know, as my generation, many of us are grandfathers.
Tana Amen: My mother's generation.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Right? That really escalated to use of marijuana in this country.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And so there are a whole bunch of grandfathers out there smoking. Anyways, what can you take away from this? It's an epidemic.
Tana Amen: It's killing people.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It's been marketed as a lie, that vaping is a healthier form of smoking. The incidence of stroke is the same and vaping as it is in smoking at high doses of nicotine, they're addictive.
It's going to take more and more to get the same response. It prematurely ages your brain-
Tana Amen: And your skin.
Dr. Daniel Amen: You want to be more thoughtful, more careful. And as I wrote about and feel better fast and make it last, it's something that helps you feel good now, but not later. And ultimately what brain warriors want is they want to feel good now and later. If you do something and it's going to make you feel better tomorrow, you want to do that today. So that's your frontal lobes teaching you to do things for now and later.
Tana Amen: Well quite frankly, any company that markets something that they know is not good for you and they lie about it and they market it to children. I'm sorry, I have no empathy.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo banned flavored e-cigarettes and vaping products across the state through an emergency executive action. So ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes and vaping. Cuomo said that flavored products, including bubblegum flavor are geared toward young people. And he also proposed legislation to halt ads aimed at young people. So the vaping companies are going to ultimately because of the illness that it's causing, there are going to be class action lawsuits and, but what often happens with these companies is they get into hot water in the US so they go to Mexico or they go to Japan or they go to China or they go to other places around the world to sell the poisons we sell to the American population.
Tana Amen: Well, let's hope that they're watching and paying attention to what's happening here and smart enough not to do it.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So who vapes? You know, I think that's actually an interesting question. Who vapes?
Tana Amen: Well, I know high school kids do for sure.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well some do. And is it the anxious kid who vapes? Is it the ADD kid who vapes-
Tana Amen: Or the ones who want to look cool.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Is it the ones who feel like they don't fit in and that will help them fit in-
Tana Amen: Is it social pressure?
Dr. Daniel Amen: Why do you vape? Because I know people who are listening to us vape and they're sort of irritated with us and we're sorry.
Tana Amen: And one of the questions I have is are you vaping because you actually believed that it was better for you? Did you switch from cigarettes to vaping because you bought into the marketing that it was supposed to be better for you? And if so how sad.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Almost one in 20 US adults now uses e-cigarettes. So roughly 10 million Americans, more than half of them are under the age of 35. One in three e-cigarette users are vaping daily according to a report in the annals of internal medicine and e-cigarette use is closely associated with other high risk behaviors. So I think we should be concerned. So 20 somethings smokers of traditional cigarettes, unemployed adults are higher.
Tana Amen: Is that odd that they target that population? Because they're expensive, seems so odd.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So there are clearly vulnerable groups and it goes back to the question that we often ask, is it good for your brain or bad for it? And I would argue based on the information we have at Amen Clinics, that it's bad for it because you're bathing your brain in something that will wear out your pleasure centers. That also is a vasoconstrictor. That means it constricts blood flow to the brain, which makes it harder for oxygen and nutrients to get to every cell in your brain.
So stay with us, we're going to talk more about it. Is there one lesson you learned? Post it on any of your social media channels and we're always grateful. In fact, we'll read a couple of reviews next time. If you leave a review at Apple Podcast or will enter you into a raffle to get a signed book of The Brain Warrior's Way cookbook. People love that cookbook, including me. Stay with us.
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