8 deaths and more than 500 cases of lung injuries related to vaping
“Vaping” is smoking electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) and is supposed to help people stop smoking. E-cigarettes heat nicotine (extracted from tobacco), flavorings and other chemicals to create a water vapor that the smoker inhales.
However, vaping apparently brings its own threat to human life. In the past several weeks, health officials across the country have attributed eight deaths to vaping. Innumerable people have become sick and some needed hospital care. The seventh vaping-blamed death occurred in California about 10 days ago.
On Monday, Sept. 16, when the California vaping death was announced, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order to confront the growing youth epidemic and health risks linked to vaping.
The principal step directs the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to launch a $20 million statewide digital and social media public awareness campaign to educate youth, young adults and parents about the health risks associated with vaping nicotine and cannabis products.
The purpose is to reduce the availability of vaping devices to people under 21 years old. The Department of Tax and Fee Administration will develop recommendations to remove counterfeit vaping products from stores and increase enforcement including nicotine content in the calculation of tax on e-cigarettes.
CDPH is also directed to develop a campaign to warn young adults and youth of the dangers of smoking and the use of vaping products. Retail locations, which sell vaping equipment and flavors, will be the focus of these warnings.
“We must take immediate action to meet the urgency behind this public health crisis and youth epidemic,” Newsom said in the press release announcing the executive order. “As a parent, I understand the anxiety caused by the deceptive marketing tactics and flavored options designed to target our kids. With mysterious lung illnesses and deaths on the rise, we have to educate our kids and do everything we can to tackle this crisis.”
On the same day, Newsom signed Senate Bill 39. This legislation imposes stricter age verification requirements for tobacco products sold online or by mail.
“We must build a strong, comprehensive legislative package to attack this problem in California ⎯ and get to the heart of the problem: the products themselves,” wrote State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, assembly members Kevin McCarthy, D-Sacramento, and Jim Wood, D-Santa Rosa, in a joint statement following Newsom’s signing of the order.
“We fully support the governor’s belief that these products should be banned, and we look forward to working with him to pass legislation that will bring an end to this public health crisis and protect the youth in our state,” they concluded.
According to the governor’s executive order and press release, vaping devices are the most commonly used tobacco product in California and more than 80% of high-school teens who consume tobacco use a vaping device.
From 2016 to 2018, vaping among California high school students rose 27%. In 2018, 10.9% of California high school students reported using e-cigarettes and 14.7% reported using e-cigarettes with cannabis.
On Sept. 19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported more than 530 cases of lung injury have been identified in 38 states and 1 U.S. territory.
CDC added, “All reported cases have a history of e-cigarette product use or vaping.” Most patients have reported a history of using e-cigarette products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Many patients have reported using THC and nicotine. Some have reported the use of e-cigarette products containing only nicotine.
Based on reports from several states, patients have experienced respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain), and some have also experienced gastrointestinal symptoms (nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea) or non-specific constitutional symptoms (fatigue, fever, or weight loss), according to the CDC Aug. 30 Health Alert.
Vaping products are not new to the market. Various vaping equipment and options have been available for more than a decade.
What is new is the recent surge, that began in the spring, in illness, sickness, hospitalization and deaths of e-cigarette users.