Sept 10 (Reuters) – U.S. public health officials are investigating the sudden rise in vaping related illnesses—more than 450 cases of severe lung illnesses and least six deaths related to e-cigarette products. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines e-cigarettes as devices that deliver an aerosol to the user by heating a liquid that usually contains nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals. E-cigarettes can be used to deliver tobacco, marijuana, and other substances.
As of Sept. 6, 2019, the CDC has received 450 reported cases of a vaping related lung disease from 33 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The CDC has confirmed six deaths related to vaping or e-cigarette use in California, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Kansas, and Oregon.
WHAT WE KNOW
The CDC is studying the use of both nicotine and THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis, to determine the cause. Although the illness can cause a fever and other symptoms that suggest an infection, patients do not respond to antibiotics, and doctors believe they are suffering from a chemical injury.
WHAT WE DO NOT KNOW
So far, no single product has been identified in all of the cases. The only common thread is that people who had lung illnesses used e-cigarettes or vaping devices. It is not yet clear whether the vaping related illnesses are unique to the United States, though some health agencies, such as Canada’s, say they have not had any cases so far. The CDC is also investigating whether the illnesses are caused by ingredients in the vaping products or by vaping habits in general.
The CDC urges consumers to refrain from all vaping until a cause is identified to avoid more patient deaths and illnesses. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned consumers to avoid vaping products purchased outside of retail stores as well as THC liquids or other illicit substances. In a warning issued on Sept. 6, 2019, the FDA stressed that many samples of vaping liquids used by patients contained THC and that most samples with THC also contained significant amounts of Vitamin E acetate, a substance present in dietary supplements.
The American Medical Association (AMA) has urged all consumers to avoid vaping. The organization has urged doctors to warn their patients of the potential harms of e-cigarettes and has called on the FDA to regulate vaping products.
What Vaping Officials Say
Industry officials have sought to distance their companies from any possible safety risk, focusing on the FDA’s warning regarding THC liquids. Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, criticized the AMA for “fear-mongering about nicotine vaping products” while not mentioning “the very real risks of vaping illicit THC products.” Ted Kwong, a spokesman for U.S. market leader Juul Labs Inc, said the company’s products “do not include THC, any compound derived from cannabis, or vitamin E compounds like those found in THC products.” Juul is 35 percent owned by Altria Group Inc . (Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Additional reporting by Chris Kirkham in Winston-Salem, North Carolina)