Vaping-related illness and death increasing, answers are not

As reported in February 2020, the number of vaping-related illnesses in the United States have topped 2,800 with deaths reaching nearly 70.

The Centers for Disease Control is working around the clock to identify the cause of this seemingly sudden outbreak in vaping-related illnesses. The ongoing investigation provides regular updates on the CDC website regarding those affected and what they know:

  • Investigation spans almost all states, more than 2,000 patients, and a wide variety of brands, substances, and e-cigarette/vaping products
  • 2,290 cases of E-cigarette/Vaping product use Associated Lung Injury (EVALI) have been reported to the CDC from 49 states
  • 47 deaths have been confirmed in 25 states and the District of Columbia
    • Median age of deceased patients is 53, ranges from 17 to 75
  • Of the studied illnesses:
    • 68% were male
    • 77% were under 35 years old, the youngest being 13

Symptoms of Vaping-Related Illness

Reports continue to fill the news regarding individuals getting sick from vaping. What exactly is happening? And should you be concerned? In short, yes. Among the growing list of health problems attributed to vaping, some symptoms include:

  • Coughing, shortness of breath, and/or chest pain
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Fatigue, fever, or weight loss

Contact a medical professional immediately if you regularly use e-cigarettes or vaping devices and experience any of the above symptoms.

The damage being done to lungs is extensive. Some individuals are admitted to the hospital with minor symptoms and are released. They continue to use e-cigarettes and are later readmitted. Some of the known cases of vaping-related illnesses have found the following damage to their lungs:

  • Inflammation
  • Damage that resembled exposure to inhaled toxic substances, like from a chemical spill
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome (fluid in the lungs that impedes oxygen getting to the body)
  • Pneumonia-like symptoms and illness

Possible Causes of Vaping-Related Illness

The numbers of deaths and illnesses related to vaping continue to rise. So do the questions, but not the answers. The common factor in these illnesses is vaping. Beyond that, there is only speculation about what else could be the cause.

The CDC found one common denominator in vaping illnesses – the additive vitamin E acetate. The vaping-related illnesses are seen in individuals vaping THC, tobacco, or a combination of the two, but most illnesses (83%) come from vaping products containing THC. Vitamin E acetate is an additive specific to THC vaping and has been found in the diseased lungs of those studied by the CDC.

There are also concerns regarding those looking to save money by purchasing “off-brands” and buying products online from unverified sources. Some of these online products are acquired illegally and have not been verified by the FDA. The CDC has stated: “The latest national and state findings suggest products containing THC, particularly those obtained off the street or from other informal sources (e.g. friends, family members, illicit dealers), are linked to most of the cases and play a major role in the outbreak.”

The severity of illnesses related to vaping has driven the American Medical Association (AMA) to call for a ban on all e-cigarette and vaping products that have not been approved by the FDA for use supporting those attempting to quit smoking traditional tobacco products.

The dangers of e-cigarette use are very real. Many, as we are seeing, are still alarmingly unknown. Individuals continue to become ill and even die due to a product previously deemed “safe.”