WHEN e-cigarettes were invented they seemed like the solution smokers had waited decades for.
But after the deaths of five people and hundreds more falling ill, people are beginning to question how safe the devices actually are.
Simah was left fighting for her life after contracting a lung disease caused by vaping[/caption]
So far, all of the victims from America were struck down by a mysterious lung condition understood to be linked to vaping.
Health officials in the US are now looking into more than 450 other similar cases – most of them otherwise healthy young people in their teens or early 20s.
They believe THC the psychoactive agent in marijuana is present within the vape liquid, which could be contributing to the illness.
No similar incidents have been reported in the UK, but British health experts have raised concerns over the health risks of vaping.
Health investigators in the US say that most of the patients who ended up in hospital had reported similar symptoms, including:
- shortness of breath
- chest pain
- weight loss
A report published in The New England Journal of Medicine describes how 53 patients from Wisconsin and Illinois had developed serious respiratory symptoms after vaping.
Most of the patients were young males – the median age was 19 – and were otherwise considered healthy prior to getting sick.
All of them had vaped within the three months prior – and 84 per cent reported using marijuana products.
The report suggests that the vaping-related illnesses are a new phenomenon, and not something that went undetected in the past.
Another report, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that five young patients in North Carolina were diagnosed with lipoid pneumonia after vaping.
The rare condition is caused by fats and oils entering the lungs which can lead to pneumonia, or an inflammation of the lungs.
Doctors were unable to determine whether the lipids came from an inhaled substance or from inside the body.
As a result, officials are now urging vapers to put the e-cigs down, while an investigation is carried out.
Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles county public health director, told the LA Times last week: “Stop vaping now.
“We’re issuing a warning to all residents about the use of these devices as potentially harmful to proper lung function.”
Dr Melodi Pirzada, chief paediatric pulmonologist in Mineola, New York, told The New York Times the outbreak is “becoming an epidemic… something is very wrong.”
People are also being urged not to buy bootleg products and to stop modifying devices to vape a mixture of substances.
The UK versus USA – how vaping compares
Two chemicals found in two popular vaping flavours could destroy lung function, experts have warned.
Inhaling the popcorn and caramel e-cig liquids could increase a vaper’s risk of respiratory diseases, their findings suggest.
Popcorn flavoured e-cig liquid is especially harmful, thanks to the chemical diacetyl, which has been linked to “popcorn lung”.
In the UK, diacetyl was banned in e-cigarette liquid under the EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) in 2016.
So, e-liquids sold in the UK shouldn’t contain diacetyl but if you get your liquid on holiday, you may well find that it includes it.
Vaping works by heating chemical-filled liquid and turning it into steam to be inhaled.
The chemicals are mixed with solvents, or oils, which heat up during aerosolization to become vapour.
But some oil droplets can be left over as the liquid cools back down and inhaling those can cause breathing problems and lung inflammation.
Thomas Eissenberg, who studies vaping at Virginia Commonwealth University, told the NY Times: “Inhaling oil into your lungs is extremely dangerous behaviour that could result in death.”
Another issue is that many vaping ingredients are not listed on the products.
In some of the cases reported in New York they have found Vitamin E oil to be one of the most common substances associated with sudden and severe respiratory problems, state officials said.
Health officials, including Public Health England, recommend vaping to smokers trying to quit.
They’re claimed to be up to 95 per cent less harmful than cigarettes.
Public Health England insists that “false fears” over vaping and stopping many smokers from using them.
Regarding the spate of deaths in America, Martin Dockrell, Head of Tobacco Control at PHE, said: “A full investigation is not yet available but we’ve heard reports that most of these cases were linked to people using illicit vaping fluid bought on the streets or homemade, some containing cannabis products, like THC, or synthetic cannabinoids, like Spice.
How safe are e-cigarettes in the UK?
In the UK, e-cigarettes are tightly regulated for safety and quality.
They’re not completely risk free, but they carry a small fraction of the risk of cigarettes.
E-cigarettes do not produce tar or carbon monoxide, two of the most harmful elements in tobacco smoke.
The liquid and vapour contain some potentially harmful chemicals also found in cigarette smoke, but at much lower levels.
While nicotine is the addictive substance in cigarettes, it’s relatively harmless.
Almost all of the harm from smoking comes from the thousands of other chemicals in tobacco smoke, many of which are toxic.
Nicotine replacement therapy has been widely used for many years to help people stop smoking and is a safe treatment.
There’s no evidence so far that vaping causes harm to other people around you.
This is in contrast to secondhand smoke from smoking, which is known to be very harmful to health.
“Unlike the US, all e-cigarette products in the UK are tightly regulated for quality and safety by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and they operate the Yellow Card Scheme, encouraging vapers to report any bad experiences.
“Our advice remains that e-cigarettes are a fraction of the risk of smoking, and using one makes it much more likely you’ll quit successfully than relying on willpower alone.
“But it’s important to use UK-regulated e-liquids and never risk vaping home-made or illicit e-liquids or adding substances, any of which could be harmful.”
Simah’s family were even told to prepare for the worst[/caption]
MORE ON VAPING
It comes as an 18-year-old released a photo of herself in a coma after her vaping habit nearly killed her.
Simah Herman was left fighting for her life just two weeks ago after her lungs failed and she could no longer breathe on her own.
And now she is warning others about the dangers of e-cigarettes – in a desperate bid to prevent anyone from suffering the same fate as she did.
The teen shared photos holding signs saying she wants to start a “no vaping campaign”.
She said: “The dangers of vaping are real and this can happen to you. Please don’t let it.
“Don’t let vaping win. Take back your life and quit smoking. It’s just not worth it.”
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