By Miriam Raftery
September 9, 2019 (Washington D.C.) -- With 450 cases of severe lung illness and five deaths tied to vaping reported nationwide, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control are advising everyone to avoid all vaping (e-cigarettes)– especially young people and pregnant women. The advisory includes all vaping including nicotine, marijuana, and other substances.
Authorities believe chemicals are responsible for the sudden and in some cases irreversible lung damage. No single substance was found in all of the cases, although in New York, Vitamin E acetate found in black market cannabis cartridges for vaping is suspected as one possible cause.
The public health crisis has spread to 33 states, including California, where one death has occurred. Locally, San Diego County health officials report 11 cases so far. Most of the severe lung illness cases were in previously healthy young people between ages 18 and 25.
In a press conference, Dr. Dana Meaney-Delma with the CDC advised Americans to stop using e-cigarettes immediately, adding, “People who do use e-cigarette products should monitor themselves for symptoms, for example, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea and vomiting — and promptly seek medical attention for any health concerns.”
The public is also advised not to purchase any vaping-related products from non-licensed vendors (such as illegal pot shops or online cannabis dealers) and not to add any substances. Besides nicotine or marijuana, vaping products have been found to contain a variety of chemical additives ranging from flavorings to formaldehyde.
Public health officials advise people who need help to stop smoking cigarettes to consult a physician and choose FDA-approved options other than vaping.
What are e-cigarettes?
- E-cigarettes are electronic devices that heat a liquid and produce an aerosol, or mix of small particles in the air.
- E-cigarettes come in many shapes and sizes. Most have a battery, a heating element, and a place to hold a liquid.
- Some e-cigarettes look like regular cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. Some look like USB flash drives, pens, and other everyday items. Larger devices such as tank systems, or “mods,” do not look like other tobacco products.
- E-cigarettes are known by many different names. They are sometimes called “e-cigs,” “e-hookahs,” “mods,” “vape pens,” “vapes,” “tank systems,” and “electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS).”
- Using an e-cigarette is sometimes called “vaping” or “JUULing.”
Parents are advised to talk to their teens about the dangers of vaping or JUULing, which many young people believe is harmless. In fact it can affect brain development in adolescents in addition to putting them at risk of sudden, severe lung disease, addiction, and long-term risks of cancer, according to the CDC.
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.
Information for health professionals and local health officials
CDC and FDA encourage the public to submit detailed reports of any unexpected health or product issues related to tobacco or e-cigarette products to the FDA via the online Safety Reporting Portal.
As this investigation continues, CDC encourages clinicians to report possible cases of e-cigarette-associated pulmonary disease to their local or state health department for further investigation.
If e-cigarette product use is suspected as a possible cause for a patient’s lung disease, a detailed history of the substances used, the sources, and the devices used should be obtained, as outlined in the HAN, and efforts should be made to determine if any remaining product, devices, and liquids are available for testing.
CDC encourages local and state health departments to notify CDC about possible cases promptly, and contact CDC for the most recent versions of the surveillance case definitions, reporting guidelines, and case investigation forms.
Local and state public health departments that need data collection tools should email CDC at firstname.lastname@example.org.