(Sept. 20, 2019) Federal health officials say 530 people have fallen ill from a vaping-related lung ailment. According to the U.S. government, that number has increased from 380 people who were confirmed earlier this year as having suffered lung injuries from vaping.
At Least Seven People Dead from Vaping
Seven people have died from the illness, said the CDC at a Sept. 19, 2019 briefing. Officials said they still hadn’t determined a cause of the lung ailment. They said there didn’t appear to be one product or substance involved in all the cases, which have now been identified in 38 different states.
Mitchell Zeller, director of the Center for Tobacco Products at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, offered a well-worn cliche at the briefing: “We are leaving no stone unturned,” Mr. Zeller proclaimed.
President Trump: “Children have died. People have died.”
President Trump also weighed in on the government’s examination of the vaping problem: “We are looking at vaping very strongly,” said Mr. Trump at the White House this week. “It’s very dangerous. Children have died. People have died.”
Along with the public health investigation, Mr. Zeller said the FDA’s enforcement arm has also opened a criminal probe focused on the vaping industry’s supply chain.
Underage Vaping Explodes (pun intended)
The government has had little choice but to at least mount a public relations blitzkrieg promising to look at the problem. A sudden surge of vaping illnesses combined with an explosion of underage users sucking on e-cigarettes has forced public health officials to reassess lax regulation of the booming new industry. Juul Labs, the most successful e-cigarette player to turn underage users and hapless others into nicotine junkies, is expected to triple its revenue this year to about $3.4 billion.
Juul reported that it made sales of over $1 billion in 2018, up from $200 million the year prior. Bloomberg News reported that Juul’s overall profit for 2018 reached $12.4 million.
Vaping Sickness Cases rise to 530
All those e-cigarette sales have triggered some problems. Juul and other e-cigarette vapers now routinely turn up in emergency rooms across the country. People have become suddenly stricken with dangerous respiratory damage. Their lungs looked like they’d been torn up by a disease, or exposed to a toxic industrial chemical. What all the ravaged lungs have had in common was recent exposure to vaping products.
Vaping Devices Changes Driving Injuries?
A limited number of similar case reports occurred in the past few years. The sudden increase has raised the question of whether medical professionals may have missed other, older incidents. Some armchair quarterbacks and doctors now think the severity and the large number of recent cases suggest that something has changed in the vaping devices themselves.
The vaping illnesses have been reported most often in patients inhaling products with THC, the key psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. Some were using vaping and e-cigarette devices with both THC and nicotine, while some were using nicotine devices alone.
Vaping disrupts natural lung processes?
Bloomberg News reports that some patients with vaping-related lung illnesses have presented with an unusual problem in their lungs. Doctors have found immune cells called macrophages filled with oil. The cells could be absorbing ingredients from vaping devices. Some researchers think vaping may disrupt natural lung processes, causing cells to choke on lipids naturally found in the lungs.
Vitamin E Acetate a Culprit?
On Sept. 5, 2019, New York state health officials pointed to vitamin E acetate as a likely culprit. Considered harmless when used as a nutritional supplement, the vitamin could carry risks when inhaled. E-acetate has been found in some products. But other doctors Bloomberg interviewed said the culprit is still unknown.
Teenage Vaping Epidemic – Vaping as Gateway Drug
E-cigarettes have been marketed by Juul and other nicotine device sellers as a panacea to help curtail tobacco use, which kills some 480,000 people a year in the U.S.. Tobacco-related illnesses remain the leading cause of preventable death in the world. But an explosion in the use of vaping products by teenagers — many of whom said that they had never smoked cigarettes — has led the FDA to call teenage vaping an epidemic. In addition, many youngsters report going from never having smoked cigarettes to vaping, and then smoking cigarettes. So vaping for some could fairly be called a gateway drug.
Hooking Kids on Vaping
E-cigarette use by 10th and 12th graders doubled in the past two years, according to data released this month by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). According to the survey, 1 in 4 high school seniors reported vaping nicotine in the previous month, and 1 in 5 sophomores reported the same thing.
Hooking underage youth may be good news for Juul and other e-cigarette makers’ pocketbooks, but it’s not so good for the future (and immediate) health and wealth of the country’s young people. One 22-year-old stroke victim filed suit against Juul this summer for failing to warn him about the dangers of nicotine addiction, and the dangers of sucking on Juul’s candy-flavored e-cigarettes day and night. Few things are more miserable than nicotine addiction, and few companies have been as successful as Juul in making something terrible, something potentially life threatening, look so attractive.