The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just announced a huge jump in confirmed cases of lung injury associated with vaping. Last week, 380 cases confirmed, and this week 530 cases confirmed, including seven deaths confirmed from six states. In Ohio, the Ohio Department of Health confirmed that there have been 17 cases in the buckeye state with zero deaths, up to this point.
Digging down deeper in the CDC data, nearly three fourths (72%) of cases are male. Two-thirds (67%) of cases are 18-34 years old. But, very surprising to me was that 16% of cases are under 18 years old. I guess that shouldn’t surprise me because data from the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey showed that more than 3 million high school students used e-cigarettes which is a 78 percent increase from 2017.
Possible Signs/Symptoms of Vaping Lung Injury
Rapid Onset of Coughing
Rapid Onset of Breathing Difficulties
Weight Loss, Nausea, Vomiting, Diarrhea
CDC Recommendations on Vaping
If any symptoms, consult your doctor immediately
No Vaping for Youth and Young Adults
For Adults: Consider stopping vaping until we know more
“Safe Vaping”: Don’t buy off the street products or modify current product
I’ve been receiving a lot of questions from patients, from families, and from community members on this topic. Unfortunately, there is still a lot that we do not know yet. For example, we do not know the exact cause of the deaths related to the vaping lung injuries. Looking on the internet, there are a lot of theories out there like “lipoid pneumonia” or “acute eosinophilic pneumonia.” But, we still haven’t found a definite pattern yet.
What is causing the illnesses? Again we don’t know. There have been illnesses reported in those who used nicotine vaping products, THC vaping products, or both vaping products. In addition to these, the American Lung Association states that there other chemicals in e-cigarettes like propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, acetaldehyde, acrolein, formaldehyde, and others.
Are flavored vapes more likely to be dangerous? Again, we don’t know that either. In the news this week, there has been talk about the banning of all non-tobacco flavored e-cigarettes from the market. Some agree with this, and some disagree. But, I don’t think that there is a doubt that the child-friendly vaping flavors are a gateway to nicotine-vaping, cigarette use, and possibly other substances (see my 2016 local TV interview below). Definitely ban vaping (tobacco or non tobacco vaping) for those younger than 21. But, a blanket ban for flavored vape products for everyone, including those 21 and older, is a step too far, in my opinion.
Finally, I’ve been asked if this is a new phenomenon in vaping, or is it just recognized more now than years ago when vaping started. Again, this is hard to say. Something that we can all agree on is that more study and research is needed before medical evidence can be generated. And, hopefully, the medical evidence that is generated will translate into sensible public policy decisions. Time will tell….