To vape or not to vape? A life-threatening lung illness, associated with vaping, is now a health emergency. So much so that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has this bottom line: It is recommending that folks do not use electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) at this time.
The CDC and other national and state-based health officials have identified about 450 possible cases of life-threatening lung illness associated with the use of e-cigarettes. There have been as many as five deaths, in 33 states, including one recent death in Los Angeles County.
Officials consider this to be an under-representation of the problem. There are likely many more severely ill persons and even deaths that have not been recognized due to vaping — the inhalation of chemical compounds produced by e-cigarettes.
Depending on the content of the compounds, vaping is used as a means to quit smoking or as a means to inhale THC compounds. There is no evidence that vaping nicotine does aid a smoker to quit (see CDC link at the end of the article on how to quit smoking).
There are so many different chemicals and compounds used in e-cigarettes and across these products that the CDC has been unable to isolate a single product or substance as conclusively causing the life-threatening illness. However, the disease is likely caused by an unknown chemical exposure and not an infection, according to Dana Meaney-Delman, M.D., M.P.H., incident manager for response at the CDC.
What to watch for? Thus far, most patients complained of coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue, weight loss, fever, diarrhea and vomiting after using e-cigarettes. In some patients, the illness grew worse quickly resulting in coma and mechanical ventilation.
The CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urge the public to report unexpected health problems or product issues related to tobacco or e-cigarettes to the FDA using the online Safety Reporting Portal (see first link below).
To repeat: The CDC recommends that until a definitive cause is known, persons should consider not using e-cigarettes. Those who use e-cigarettes should seek medical attention for any health concerns. Clinicians should report possible cases to their local or state health department.
• Youth and young adults should not use e-cigarette products.
• Women, who are pregnant, should not use e-cigarette products.
• Adults, who do not currently use tobacco products, should not start using e-cigarette products.
• If you do use e-cigarette products, you should not buy these products off the street (for example: e-cigarette products with THC or other cannabinoids).
• You should not modify e-cigarette products or add any substances to these products that are not intended by the manufacturer.
• Adult smokers, who are attempting to quit, should use evidence-based treatments, including counseling and FDA-approved medications. If you need help quitting tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, contact your doctor or other medical provider.
If you are concerned about your health after using an e-cigarette product, you can also call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.
Nothing in this article is meant to be medical advice. Please consult your healthcare provider.
Some information for the article taken from:
https://www.safetyreporting.hhs.gov/SRP2/en/Home.aspx?sid=7089125b-241a-4744-9db8-750f7254f6cb, https://emergency.cdc.gov/han/han00421.asp, https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/68/wr/mm6836e2.htm?s_cid=mm6836e2_e&deliveryName=USCDC_921-DM8485, https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/severe-lung-disease.html, https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/infographics/youth/pdfs/e-cigarettes-usb-flash-508.pdf, https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/quit_smoking/how_to_quit/index.htm.
Callie Wight is a California state-licensed registered nurse with a Master of Arts in psychology.