In 2017, an estimated 14% of US adults were smoking cigarettes—a whopping 67% decline since 1965. The best part: Only about 10% of young adults (age 18–24) smoked cigarettes that year.
But before we go and slap ourselves on the back for that achievement, we need to consider a much less cheerful figure.
As smoking among teens and young adults has gone way down, the use of e-cigarettes, or vaping, has replaced it.
In 2018, 37.3% of 12th-graders reported that they had vaped in the past 12 months, up from 27.8% the year before.
And as we now know, the habit—formerly considered less harmful than smoking—comes at a price.
In the last few months, we’ve heard horror stories about vaping.
Adam Hergenreder, 18, from Illinois is one of the recent victims. He started vaping at age 16, mostly mint and mango flavors, later also THC-filled devices called “dab sticks” from the street.
Now he is in the hospital, attached to a ventilator. His doctors told him his lungs look like those of a 70-year-old man. He might never fully recover.
Cases of vaping-related lung disease and sudden deaths have surged to 450 incidents in 33 states. Last week, Indiana announced its third death, Minnesota its fourth, and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is investigating a fifth death.
Most tragically, the victims are usually kids.
The exact cause is still a mystery. CDC officials believe that “some chemical” is responsible for the deaths, but no one has been able to identify it.
According to David C. Christiani of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, e-cigarette fluids contain “at least six groups of potentially toxic compounds.”
He noted that many of the patients had also vaped marijuana-derived substances, a witches’ brew of chemicals that might create completely new, unknown toxins.
Some experts have postulated that vitamin E acetate, a compound that’s part of many e-cig cartridges, might be the culprit. Others suspect that the problem might come from unregulated “street e-cigs” or homemade devices.
Whatever it is, though, it’s serious. Of the cases in Illinois and Wisconsin that Dr. Christiani investigated, 98% of patients were hospitalized, 50% were in ICU (intensive care), and 30% had so much trouble breathing that they needed to be put on ventilators.
In one of the most severe cases, a 21-year-old Utah resident had such massive lung damage that even a ventilator couldn’t help. To save his life, physicians had to connect him to a machine that pumped oxygen directly into his bloodstream.
When they examined fluid from his lungs, it contained white blood cells full of fat—“not from the substances he had vaped,” stated the New York Times, “but more likely a sort of debris from the breakdown of his lung tissue.”
No wonder that health officials and politicians alike are scrambling for a solution and pleading for vapers to call it quits.
President Trump, never one for half-measures, recently threatened to ban all non-tobacco-flavored e-cigarette products. Michigan has already done it—it’s the first US state to ban all flavored e-cigarettes this month.
I’m expecting that we’ll see a tidal wave of quitters this year... which is a good thing, obviously.
But if you’ve ever smoked, you know how hard it can be to kick the habit. That’s where my trade idea for this week comes in: smoking cessation products.
For example, one of the most popular brands of nicotine replacement therapy is Nicorette, which makes nicotine gum and patches.
Nicorette products are manufactured by McNeil Consumer Healthcare, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson (JNJ). The license for Nicorette gum in the United States is held by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) while Johnson & Johnson markets Nicorette worldwide.
Other smoking cessation products that are hugely popular and have proven to be efficient are pharmaceutical drugs. For some of them, their efficacy against nicotine addiction started as an off-label use.
Bupropion, for example, was originally an antidepressant for major depressive and seasonal affective disorder. Now the Zyban brand by Mylan Pharmaceuticals (MYL) is marketed as a smoking cessation aid. Varenicline, sold under the brand name Chantix, is another well-known product manufactured by our Healthy Returns portfolio holding Pfizer (PFE).
Just remember to do your own due diligence before investing in any of these companies.
For fully vetted stock recommendations in the healthcare field, give Healthy Returns a try today. It’s just $9.95 a month, so you’ve got nothing to lose.
Editor, A Rich Life
Please note that the companies Chris mentions in A Rich Life are just meant to give you some ideas for your own research... not official investment recommendations. There’s no A Rich Life portfolio, and Chris doesn’t keep track of these companies.
Chris does provide actual stock picks—thoroughly researched and vetted, with entry and target prices, full company analysis, the whole nine yards—in his investment newsletter, Healthy Returns. Click here to subscribe to Healthy Returns at a low monthly rate.