Vaping, still considered a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes, has caused nearly 1300 lung illnesses since June 2019. Twenty-six of these cases have proven fatal.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just released the latest numbers associated with vaping incidents, which includes data from 49 states, as well as Washington DC and the US Virgin Islands. The most recent numbers were released in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report in which the agency named the lung disease EVALI, which is short for e-cigarette or vaping product use associated lung injury. Fatalities linked to EVALI are expected to rise in the coming months.
So far, officials are not sure what is causing the illnesses or deaths, nor do they know if a particular brand, device, or vaping liquid is to blame. It’s possible all of the illnesses so far were caused by a single issue or it could be that different diseases are occurring that happen to have similar symptoms.
Officials do believe that THC played a role in the illnesses reported thus far, as about 75 percent of those affected with the vaping lung disease reported using THC-containing vapes. Only 13 percent of those affected exclusively used nicotine in their vapes. Others speculate that vitamin E acetate is linked to the illnesses.
The CDC is encouraging people to stop vaping until it can determine the cause of the illnesses. The agency also pointed out that anyone who has switched to vaping from cigarettes should not return to cigarette use because of the emerging risks associated with vaping. Vaping is still considered a healthier habit when compared to smoking because users are exposed to fewer toxins and cancer-causing substances.
The primary concern with vaping is that younger non-smokers will pick up the habit. In these cases, which are the majority of vapers, there was no pre-existing risk to reduce and vaping is an all new habit instead of being a cessation tool.
CDC Struggles to Identify the Cause of Vaping Illness
One of the reasons it’s been so difficult to pinpoint a cause of vaping lung disease is because there is such a wide variety of vaping devices, brands, and ingredients. Vapers can choose from all-in-one devices, which include the popular Juul brand or modified tank-based e-cigarettes. Additionally, they have a wide range of ingredients they can use in their devices, ranging from liquids to waxes to plant matter.
Those affected by vaping related lung disease report a gradual buildup of symptoms that began with shortness of breath, chest pain, and trouble breathing. Some also experienced diarrhea and vomiting.
In addition to lung disease, vaping has also been linked to exposure to toxic metals, heightened risk for heart attack, and burn injuries from exploding devices.
Earlier this year, researchers published evidence in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives that many e-cigarette brands contained many of the same toxic metals found in cigarettes. This included lead. There is evidence that these toxins are making their way into the bodies of vapers. The consistent inhalation of high levels of toxic metals is linked to lung, liver, heart, brain, and immune system health. There is also evidence that exposure could affect cancer risk.
Vaping is also responsible for the increase in nicotine addiction among young people. According to the CDC, at least 78 percent of middle and high school students reported using e-cigarettes in 2018. Essentially, vaping is another way to get kids hooked on an expensive and dangerous habit. Many of those who vape even say they would never smoke a cigarette – but have no problem using a vape device and believe there is little to no risk associated with their habit. Not to mention the increased risk of exposing a still-developing brain to nicotine.
Congress Investigating Potential Vaping Bots Spamming Twitter
Vaping and e-cigarette companies are also being investigated for potentially unethical marketing practices that were intended to target young consumers. Millions of posts on Twitter, likely the work of bot accounts, downplay the risks of vaping. Lawmakers are looking into whether those bots were linked to some of the biggest vape manufacturers.
The companies involved in the investigation deny they have used bots in their marketing. A report from the Public Good Project published earlier this year found that of 1.2 million tweets related to vaping, about 77 percent originated from accounts that were highly likely to be bots. Penalties could be implemented if the bot account Tweets can be tied to e-cigarette or vaping manufacturers.
Notwithstanding claims relating to this product, the drug/medical device remains approved by the U.S. FDA.