Vaping. What is it? What is Vaping Illness? And why did a record number of people report feeling ill after vaping in June of 2019? As of this writing, vaping has claimed the lives of 57 people from 27 states and the District of Columbia. Since June of 2019, the CDC has received data on over 2,600 people who have been hospitalized as a result of vaping.
What is it and why it is killing people?
Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling vaporized tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) from an e-cigarette device or similar. THC is the chemical that is responsible for the mind-altering effects of marijuana.
One of the allures of vaping or e-cigarette usage is the fact that it simulates the feeling of holding a regular cigarette without burning tobacco and being exposed to nicotine. However, what may have been sold to people as a “safer” alternative to smoking has turned into a public health crisis.
What are the symptoms associated with EVALI (vaping illness)?
As of January 7, 2020, the CDC has received data on over 2600 confirmed cases of e-cigarette or vaping, product use-associated lung injury (EVALI) also popularly known as vaping illness. Fifty-seven people have died from EVALI so far.
Patients who show up at the emergency room with EVALI usually report the following symptoms:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Stomach pain
- Weight loss
So far, different people develop these symptoms differently but most have reported the symptoms within days to a few weeks of vaping.
What’s causing EVALI?
While this is still a developing case that the CDC is investigating, there is evidence that a chemical called Vitamin E acetate is a cause of the diseases. While Vitamin E acetate can be taken as a supplement by mouth, inhaling it is dangerous for your lungs.
And as it turns out, several e-cigarettes contain Vitamin E acetate as an additive. Researchers took a look at the lung fluid from sick patients and healthy volunteers in a recent study. They found high concentrations of Vitamin E acetate in the lung fluid of sick patients.
So far, Vitamin E acetate is the only chemical cause of EVALI that researchers can point to.
Here’s why you should be concerned
If you’re reading this post, then chances are that you want to learn about the current vaping outbreak and what you can do about it. It’s a well-known fact that THC causes health problems, especially with prolonged use.
For adolescents, THC is particularly harmful to the brain. It can affect brain development and lead to antisocial behavior, poor school performance and even lead to the abuse of other substances.
78% of EVALI patients reported that they acquired vaping products from informal sources such as family, friends, dealers or bought the e-cigarette product online.
Only 16% of these patients reported getting their products from a commercial source. This is particularly disturbing especially knowing that products from an informal source may also contain other additives that can lead to serious harm.
Apart from this, it’s alarming that in the span of 7 months, over fifty people have died from a reported vaping illness.
What the CDC recommends that you do
- If you’re an adult who is trying to quit smoking and thus have taken up vaping on your journey to quitting, the CDC recommends you consider alternative paths to quitting like taking FDA-approved smoking cessation medication. They highly recommend that you talk to your doctor about your goal to quit smoking so you receive reliable medical advice.
- If you do continue to use an e-cigarette, watch yourself for any of the symptoms described above and go to an emergency room immediately if you experience any.
- Both the CDC and the FDA recommend that people should not buy e-cigarettes online, from friends, family or other informal sources.
- For people using medical marijuana, researchers are not clear on whether there are different health effects between smoking, vaping or consuming marijuana in an edible form. For now, talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about vaping illness from medical marijuana.
- It’s always important to remember that products that affect your lungs carry a risk for disease later on.
As you can see, vaping and EVALI is shaping up to be a new healthcare problem we didn’t have just 10 years ago. If you have teenagers at home, this is a great time to open up the conversation around vaping so that they get the right information.
And ultimately, the best cure is to avoid vaping in the first place.