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E-cigarette Alter Genes Involved In Airway Immune Defense

Author: Shernide Delva

When e-cigarettes entered the market, they were marketed as the revolutionary way of quitting traditional smoking. However, evidence has come out to state that e-cigarettes may be just as unhealthy as cigarettes. Recent articles we have written on the manner mention the side effect of “popcorn lung.”  Popcorn lung gets its name from popcorn factory workers who  started to get respiratory issues from breathing in the artificial popcorn flavoring. The condition is officially known as Bronchiolitis obliterans, and recent studies have shown that the artificial flavoring in e-cigarettes could result in the same side-effect.

Now, more research is revealing the harmful effects of smoking e-cigarettes. While the long-term effects of e-cigarettes remain unknown, toxicologists at UNC are uncovering how e-cigarettes affect genes involved in the upper airway immune defense.  So far, what they have found is not promising.

Smoking cigarettes have been known to alter dozen of genes important for immune defense in the respiratory tracts. These changes to our respiratory tract increase our risk of bacterial infections, viruses, and inflammation. Now, scientists are reporting that e-cigarettes are altering hundreds of genes, including the same ones that smoking suppresses.

UNC School of Medicine conducted the study, and it confirmed that e-cigarettes and cigarettes both alter genes important for immune defense in the upper airway.

“I was really surprised by these results,” said lead researcher Ilona Jaspers, professor of pediatrics, and microbiology and immunology at UNC. “That’s why we kept going back to make sure this was accurate.”

The findings, published in the American Journal of Physiology confirmed that inhaling vaporized flavor liquids in e-cigs are not without consequences. When it comes to epithelial cell gene expression, there is damage that occurs. Smoking e-cigarettes pose harm to the critical process in which our genes give rise to protein important for various functions in cells.

Despite these new studies, UNC researchers warn that e-cigarettes are not yet associated with long-term cigarette smoking risks such as cancer, emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The long-term effects of e-cigarettes are not fully known.

“We honestly do not yet know what long-term effects e-cigarettes might have on health,” said Jaspers, senior author, and director of UNC’s toxicology curriculum. “I suspect that the effects of e-cigarettes will not be the same as the effects of cigarette smoking.”

Still, so far the evidence suggests that long-term e-cigarettes use are not harmless.

E-cigarettes have only been on the market in the United States since 2006. Usage skyrocketed only a few years ago. The FDA currently approves more than 7,000 flavors however that approval remains based on data generated for oral consumption, not inhalation.

The study conducted at Jaspers’lab in collaboration with the University of California at San Francisco yielded these results. Together, they recruited 13 non-smokers, 14 smokers, and 12 e-cigarette users. Each participant kept a journal documenting their cigarette or e-cigarette use. The team later analyzed participant’s urine and blood samples to confirm nicotine levels and biomarkers relevant to tobacco exposure.

After about three weeks, researchers took samples from the nasal passages of each participant. They wanted to analyze the expression of genes crucial for immune responsibly. Visually and functionally, the epithelial layers along our airways need to function properly to trap and dispatch particles and pathogens, so we do not get sick. It is known that cigarettes smoking modify this gene expression which is why researchers believe cigarette smokers are more prone to respiratory problems.

Non-smokers were the baseline comparison group. Jaspers’ team found that smoking cigarettes decreased the gene expression of 53 genes important for the immune response of the epithelial cells. However, e-cigarettes decreased the gene expression of 358 genes important for immune defense including the 53 genes implicated in the smoking group!

“We compared these genes one by one,” Jaspers said, “And we found that each gene common to both groups was suppressed more in the e-cigarette group. We currently do not know exactly how e-cigarettes do this.”.

This does not necessarily mean that smoking e-cigarettes are worse than smoking cigarettes,

“I think it is a mistake to try to directly compare cigarette smoking and e-cigarette use,” Jaspers said. “We shouldn’t ask ‘smoking causes cancer; do e-cigarettes cause cancer? Smoking causes emphysema; do e-cigarettes cause emphysema?'”

Smoking cigarettes and inhaling vaporized flavored liquids in e-cigarettes are completely different from each other. Furthermore, it is more likely that e-cigarettes could influence biological changes and play different roles in respiratory problems

“We know that diseases like COPD, cancer, and emphysema usually take many years to develop in smokers,” Jaspers said. “But people have not been using e-cigarettes for very long. So we don’t know yet how the effects of e-cigarette use might manifest in 10 or 15 years. We’re at the beginning of cataloging and observing what may or may not be happening.”

The next study is to understand how epithelial cells in e-cigarette users respond to a flu vaccine. This could help her team understand the immune response of epithelial cells in smokers, non-smokers, and e-cigarette users.

“We just finished our collection of samples,” Jaspers said. “We’ll see.”

While we do not know the long-term effects of smoking, it is clear that any form of smoking is detrimental. Therefore, quitting is always the ideal solution. If you are struggling with stopping any form of drug use, give us a call. We can help. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

Should It Be Illegal to Deny a Pregnant Woman a Drink?

Should It Be Illegal to Deny a Pregnant Woman a Drink?

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Shernide Delva

Until last week, bars in New York could refuse to serve pregnant women alcohol, or ban them from entering. Some restaurants even refused to serve raw fish to pregnant women. However, thanks for updated guidelines released last week by the city’s Human Rights Commission, pregnant women will now have a choice.

But should they?

The city’s Human Rights Commission aims to eliminate all forms of discrimination against pregnant women. Expectant mothers can now decide to eat or drink whatever they want, and establishments who deny them can be penalized. This new law raises an important question all throughout the nation: Should pregnant women be denied the right to drink?

For some, the answer might seem obvious. Of course, pregnant women should not be allowed to drink! After all, it has been proven that alcohol increases the likelihood of birth defects and developmental issues. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can increase the risk of a premature birth and result in negative outcomes.

Risks of alcohol consumptions during pregnancy include:

  • Distinctive facial features. The newborn may have a small head, flat face, and narrow eye openings. These differences become more apparent by age 2 or 3 years old.
  • Learning and behavioral problems
  • Growth Problems: Children exposed to alcohol may develop slower than other kids of the same age
  • Birth Defects
  • Problems bonding and feeding

Despite these risks, the answer is not that simple. Some argue that denying pregnant women the right to drink undermines the right she has to choose what she does with her body. The argument points to Roe vs. Wade and pro-choice as reasons to why a woman should be able to make the personal choice of drinking or not drinking while pregnant.

“Judgments and stereotypes about how pregnant individuals should behave, their physical capabilities, and what is or is not healthy for a fetus are pervasive in our society and cannot be used as a pretext for unlawful discriminatory decisions in employment, housing, and public accommodations,” say the new guidelines.

The guidelines were created to help clarify a 2013 city law designed to protect pregnant women in the workplace. The law specifies that it is illegal to refuse to hire or promote someone because they are pregnant. It also states that it is unlawful to deny an application from a pregnant applicant.

“Accommodation of Pregnant women cannot be a favor,” said Azadeh Khalili, executive director of the Commission on Gender Equity. “It is a human right and the law in New York City.”

These two laws seem reasonable to the average person. After all, it would be a clear form of discrimination to stop a woman from working or living in a home because she made the choice to have kids. However, the new law is taking discrimination to a whole new level by stating that restaurant and bars should not have the right to refuse a pregnant woman a drink.

Still, the subject of whether a moderate amount of alcohol is “safe” for pregnant women to drink has been hotly debated for decades. While we mentioned some of the risks of drinking while pregnant, those outcomes typically come from heavy drinking consumption. No confirmed evidence shows that an occasional drink will do harm to unborn babies, especially after the first trimester.

In February, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged sexually active women to stay away from alcohol unless they were on birth control. They stated that any amount of alcohol consumed during pregnancy could raise the risk of a fetus being born with developmental issues. Many women were not happy about these recommendations. Despite these warnings, studies show that 1-15% of women still drink a little alcohol during pregnancy.

Clearly, this whole topic is a controversial manner. Many argue that women are discriminated only once they look pregnant, meaning that women who are newly pregnant can make the choice to drink while those who are months along are denied alcohol. Since the most significant damage is done in the first trimester, denying pregnant women alcohol may not prevent as much harm.

Overall, study after study reveal drinking during pregnancy is not the best idea. It is always best to put the health of your baby first, rather than take the risk of any complications. Whether or not restaurants and bars should have a  say in the manner is a topic that is yet to be fully explored. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

Should Parents Be Penalized for Giving Minors Alcohol?

Should Parents Be Penalized for Giving Minors Alcohol ?

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Shernide Delva

Growing up, I was not exactly popular when it came to the high school in-crowd. It’s okay; I got over it, I promise.  Nonetheless, I remember hearing about parents who were “totally cool” with having their teenager bring friends over to drink. Their ideology was, if they are going to do it anyway, might as well keep an eye on them, right?  Not exactly…

In fact, the state of Maryland has had enough of parents promoting underage drinking. Just recently, the state released a bill stating any parent caught giving alcohol to underage minors will face heavy fines, even jail time.

The Maryland Senate passed the bill unanimously in an effort to prevent alcohol-related tragedies.  The bill, titled Senate Bill 564, was introduced by Montgomery County Senator Brian Feldman as a response to a recently accident involving high school students, Alex Murk, and Calvin Li. The two teens were tragically killed in a car accident after they had been drinking at a party under parental supervision.

The bill, nicknamed Alex and Calvin’s law, now must pass through the Maryland’s House of Delegates. If passed, parents who host underage drinking parties and provide alcohol to minors will be fined double what was fined prior. The fine would increase from $2,500 to $5,000 maximum and jail time would be a consideration.

“Federal data shows that parents and other adult family members are a leading source of alcohol for U.S. teenagers,” said Kurt Gregory Erickson, president of the nonprofit Washington Regional Alcohol Program and a registered Maryland lobbyist.

Erickson is a proponent of both Bill 564 and a similar House Bill that also calls for alcohol restrictions related to the fatal crash.

“At minimum, this legislation addresses the supply-side of underage drinking’s supply-and-demand paradigm,” said Erickson. “At maximum, this potentially lifesaving bill will serve as a deterrent to parents’ enabling of unlawful teen drinking and its too often life-changing consequences.”

A 2013 study conducted by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene found that when it came to high school seniors:

  • 42% had consumed alcohol
  • 6% had binge drank
  • 7% had been a passenger in a car driven by someone who had been drinking

The statistics are very daunting when it comes to minors and the access they have to alcohol. A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that the second most likely group to give alcohol to minors is parents. The most common are non-family members who are of legal age.

Even with all these statistics, parents argue that they are giving alcohol to minors more as a preventative strategy, than as a way to promote irresponsible reckless behavior. After all, if the number one way underage minors gain access to alcohol is outside of the home, one could argue that you might as well try and control the drinking by keeping it in the home.

Do Parents Who Serve Alcohol at Home Raise Responsible Drinkers?

Parents teach their children how to walk, swim, and drive a car. However, should parents also teach their teen how to drink responsibly? It’s this question that results in some parents decided to allow teens to have alcohol under their supervision.

While it may seem like a great idea, the research says otherwise. In fact, a study reveals that teens who drink with adult supervision are actually more likely to develop problems with alcohol than children who are told not to touch the stuff until they are 21.

Be the Example.

Instead of letting children drink in the home, experts suggest that parents lead by example through encouraging moderation. Keep children away from excessive drinking in the home and special occasions. Project a healthy image. By learning how to exemplify healthy behavior, children will understand moderation early on and make better decisions in their own life.

While promoting drinking in the home may seem like a way to prevent risky drinking outside of the home, the truth is it causes more harm than good.  Parents’ approval of underage drinking sends the wrong message to teens. Send the right message. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

Would Lowering the Drinking Age Increase High School Dropout Rates?

Would Lowering Drinking Age Increase High School Dropout Rates?

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Shernide Delva

Could lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18 lead to increasing the high school dropout rate? A new study believes so. The study first published in the latest issue of The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, examined dropout rates before the minimum drinking age was raised to 21 in 1984. Researchers discovered that 17-year-olds were affected by their 18-year-old peers because allowing 18 year old students in high school to have access to alcohol increased the chances that younger students would drink.

The lead author, Andrew Plunk observed that there was a 3% jump in dropout rates when the drinking age was 18. He also noted that “At-risk” groups like African Americans and Latinos had a 4% increase in dropout rates. Even more staggering, the dropout rate jumped by 40% for students whose parents had a drinking problem.

With 3.3 million teenagers expected to graduate from high school this year, a 3% jump in dropouts would amount to an additional 99,000 dropouts across the country. In a news release, Plunk stated:

“The minimum legal drinking age changes how easy it is for a young person to get alcohol. In places where it was lowered to 18, it’s likely that more high school students were able to get alcohol from their friends … if we lower the drinking age, it suggests to me that we’d see this same dropout phenomenon again.”

Despite the research, many colleges and even certain states have spoken in favor of lowering the drinking age to 18. Back in 2008, over 120 college chancellors and presidents signed a petition in favor of the idea.

Some states have come up with more creative solutions. Alaska introduce a bill in 2011 to allow active military member to drink at age 18 on the basis that if you’re old enough to serve in the military and die for your country, you’re old enough to drink.

Of course, there are a number of external environmental factors that might affect the connection between dropout rates and lowering drinking age. Despite that, Plunk still believes that a reduced drinking age could have an impact on minors. He states that laws need to remain in place to protect people are 15, 16, and 17 years old most vulnerable.

Next, we have to consider other countries that have a lower drinking age. Like me, you might be arguing that countries in Europe tend to have lower drinking ages and do just fine with them. Apparently, that’s a myth.  Plunk says that previous, separate research has revealed that European you do in fact have their share of alcohol problems.

So what about Europe? The US is always compared to Europe and we’re told that men and women have their first drink at an early age and develop a healthier relationship with alcohol. Well, according to Plunk, that’s a myth that won’t die. Plunk responded to the question posed by Medical Daily in an email. He said that previous, separate research has shown European youth do have their share of alcohol-related problems.

“For example, in 1990, France and Italy had higher per capita alcohol consumption and higher rates of cirrhosis deaths than in the U.S. Per capita consumption in France and Italy was 12.7 and 8.7 liters of alcohol, respectively, compared with 7.5 in the U.S.,” Plunk cited. “Cirrhosis death rates in France and Italy were 26.8 and 17 per 100,000, respectively, whereas the U.S. rate was 11.6. European countries are now looking to the U.S. for research and experience regarding the [drinking] age policy.”

Truthfully, more research is needed to be done to understand the true problems underage drinking could have on a country. When it comes to protecting youths from the harmful dangers of alcohol misuse, the CDC says that it will require community-based efforts to monitor the activities of you and decrease youth access to alcohol.

Alcohol abuse is unhealthy no matter what age you are though. Don’t let your alcoholism turn your life around. Get help for your addiction. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

In the News: Kayla ‘2 Drunk 2 Care’ Mendoza Pleads Not Guilty

In the News: Kayla ’2 Drunk 2 Care’ Mendoza Pleads Not Guilty


21 Year old Kayla “2 Drunk 2 Care” Mendoza of Hallandale Beach sat in the courtroom of Judge David Haimes in Broward this past Tuesday for her arraignment. She was wheelchair bound with her hair pulled back a tight bun, keeping a downward gaze during the proceedings. The woman accused of drunk driving the wrong-way down the road and causing the crash that killed two Coral Springs best friends pleaded not guilty.

The passengers of the Camry Mendoza had struck were Marisa Catronio and Kaitlyn Ferrante, both only 21 years old. Marisa Catronio was pronounced dead at the scene. Kaitlyn Ferrante later died from her injuries the next day. Ferrante and Catronio were 2010 graduates of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland and had been attending Palm Beach State College.

Local authorities stated Kayla Mendoza had a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit of .15 on the evening of Nov. 17 when she allegedly drove in the wrong direction onto the Sawgrass Expressway and had ahead-on collision with a 2012 Toyota Camry. She was 20 years old, under the legal drinking age at the time. Mendoza herself suffered broken legs and a brain injury. She was driving a Hyundai Sonata when the accident took place. On Tuesday, her right leg appeared outstretched on the wheelchair with metal rods keeping it together.

Investigators assigned to the case discovered Kayla Mendoza had posted that evening on her Twitter account “2 drunk 2 care” only a few hours before the crash occurred that took the lives of the other two girls. In an interview that aired on the popular program “Inside Edition” last week, Mendoza said the tweet was directed at her boyfriend pertaining to a dispute, and had nothing to do with her decision to drive that evening.

This young woman who is lucky to have survived herself is being charged with two counts of DUI manslaughter while impaired, two counts of DUI manslaughter with an unlawful blood-alcohol level, two counts of vehicular homicide and two counts of driving without a license causing death. She was placed on a $600,000 bond. While she only needs to pay 10% of that amount to be released from custody, the judge stipulated she must be able to show that she has the rest of the $600,000 available.

This incident is catching a lot of media attention, largely due to the blatant statement on the social media format that has been used in the case against Kayla Mendoza. Another problem with this picture is that Broward County Judge John Hurley stated during the preceding upon reviewing Kayla Mendoza’s driving record “It doesn’t appear she’s ever had a driver’s license”. However her attorney John Trevena said he plans to use a defense of involuntary intoxication, arguing that Mendoza herself was a victim. The trial date has not yet been set, but once Mendoza is able to establish bond if at all, she will be placed on house arrest for the duration of the trial.

As this story develops, it can only be said this tragedy needs to be made an example one way or another. Far too many people, especially young people, do not take into consideration the lives put at risk when driving “2 Drunk 2 Care”. This girl was not even 21 and legally old enough to drink at the time, and the other two were barely any older. Now the lives of 2 young women have ended, and 3 families will face permanent damage, because one young woman made a choice that it’s now too late to change.

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse, please call 1-800-951-6135

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