An outbreak of severe pulmonary disease associated with the use of electronic cigarettes has been spreading across several states. Nevada is not yet affected but medical experts have expressed their concern towards the negative health consequences of the practice of vaping. The outbreak is currently being investigated by the federal Centres for Disease Control and local state health agencies across the U.S. So far 215 cases have been reported in 25 different states. Furthermore, two cases of death linked to vaping have been announced in Illinois and Oregon. Dr Angelica Honsberg, a pulmonologist from Las Vegas said that vaping “does exacerbate respiratory symptoms in patients with asthma, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) or other types of lung disease. However, vaping is a relatively new phenomenon and there isn’t sufficient data yet to fully know the risks.”
How does vaping work?
Vaping is often seen as an alternative to traditional cigarettes as it is thought to be less harmful. E-cigarettes are relatively new and the research on their long term effect is very limited. Battery-powered electronic cigarettes, more commonly known as e-cigarettes turn liquid into vapour by heating it without burning anything. The liquid mixture usually contains nicotine with less harmful compounds than those found in cigarettes. E-cigarettes are more popular with young adults and according to a survey conducted by the Office of Analytics of the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services found that around 16.5% of young adults surveyed between the age of 18-24 said that they are current users of e-cigarettes.
All patients that have been associated with the outbreak have reported using e-cigarette products int the last period. So far authorities have not concluded which product or substance is associated with the illness yet they suspect that vitamin E oil which was found in marijuana products consumed by some patients through vaping before they fell sick might be the cause. Since e-cigarettes may also include flavourings and solvents, Investigators at the U.S Food and Drug Administration believe that that might be causing the vaping-related lung disease that is happening now.
What we know so far about the dangers of vaping
E-cigarettes are relatively new and the research on their long term effect is very limited. A small study on chronic electronic cigarette exposure in mice, which was published in 2016 found that “nicotine-containing vaping products triggers lung inflammation and lung tissue damage.” Moreover, another research published in 2018 found that “mice exposed to e-cigarette vapour displayed DNA damage in the lungs and bladder which increased their risk of cancer, heart disease, and lung problems.”