E-cigarettes were originally marketed as a “safe” substitute to traditional cigarette smoking and a way for many to quit altogether. However, it is becoming increasingly clear the high-tech nicotine delivery system known as vaping may not be safe at all. In fact, last week New York State’s Health Commissioner issued an urgent warning “to stop using vape products”.
On September 6, 2019, the CDC, FDA, and multiple state and local health departments disclosed that they are investigating an outbreak of severe pulmonary disease associated with e-cigarette product use. According to the CDC, over 450 possible cases of lung illness associated with the use of e-cigarette products have been reported, including 5 confirmed deaths. These numbers will grow exponentially now that there are national reporting guidelines.
E-cigarettes such as those manufactured by JUUL, provide the user with nicotine via a delivery system that makes it easier to consume than a traditional cigarette, potentially providing a more potent and addictive impact. With flavors including watermelon, strawberry milk and grape, vaping has become an attractive way for an entire generation of teenagers to become addicted to nicotine. E-cigarette manufacturers are marketing to teens in much the same way that traditional tobacco companies use to do, which isn’t surprising since Altria, the largest cigarette company in the USA (they own Marlboro), owns 35% of JUUL. JUUL, in turn, commands over 70% of the e-cigarette market. Multiple states have sued e-cigarette manufactures for targeting teens and teens are getting sick in alarming numbers!
The New England Journal of Medicine recently published a study of illness related to e-cigarette use. Most patients in the study were only 19 and had used THC products in their e-cigarettes before developing severe illnesses requiring hospitalization. The most common symptoms were shortness of breath, cough, and chest pain, but many also had gastrointestinal symptoms and elevated heart rates. Most disturbing is that more than half of the patients were admitted to the intensive care unit with respiratory failure and the average stay was nearly a week!
Numerous studies have been launched to determine exactly how e-cigarette products are causing such rapid and severe health issues. It has been reported that when people inhale from an e-cigarette, they expose their lungs to heavy metals and formaldehyde. Further, some e-cigarette products contain Diacetyl, a chemical that provides a buttery flavor in products such as microwave popcorn. Studies from Harvard and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health concluded that when inhaled Diacetyl can cause popcorn lung, which is officially known as obliterative bronchiolitis. Popcorn lung is scarring and narrowing of the lungs making it difficult to breathe and causing violent coughing. Diacetyl has been banned from e-cigarette products in Europe. Finally, many people are using e-cigarettes purchased on the black market to consume THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Some vaping products containing THC also contain vitamin E acetate, an oily substance which is safe when used topically, but which is believed to be incredibly dangerous when inhaled into the lungs.
At Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith, we are monitoring the developments related to e-cigarettes and respiratory & cardiac illnesses related to these products. If you or a loved one has been affected by e-cigarette products, please call us for a free consultation.
This blog is written by Partner Steve Clarfield.