INVESTIGATORS probing the deaths of six people who contracted vaping-related lung diseases have warned that NO e-cigarette is safe.
US health bosses say they aren’t ruling out any products on the market – despite vaping industry officials trying to blame illegal cannabis products.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is investigating the cause of at least six deaths and 450 reported cases of lung illnesses linked to the devices.
Dr Dana Meaney-Delman, who is leading the investigation, said people should stop using any electronic cigarette or vaping device until there is more conclusive evidence of a cause.
She said: “We’re trying to prevent any additional cases and deaths.”
The agency lead has so far reviewed data from 64 patients, including cases published on Friday in the New England Journal of Medicine, as well as other reports.
Dr Meaney-Delman said 80 per cent of those patients reported the use of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component of cannabis.
Ditch bootleg vapes
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week warned consumers against using vaping devices bought “on the street”.
It also warned against adding THC and other substances to products purchased in stores.
Dr Meaney-Delman said investigators are not yet ready to distinguish between products.
The data she has reviewed show that 60 per cent of patients used both THC and nicotine, while 20 per cent reported only using nicotine in their devices.
We’re absolutely concerned about THC, but there’s a large number in our data that are reporting (use of) both nicotine and THC
Dr Dana Meaney-Delman
She said: “We’re absolutely concerned about THC, but there’s a large number in our data that are reporting (use of) both nicotine and THC.
“There is no one product, device or substance that we can point to that is common among all these different patients.”
Dr Meaney-Delman said state health officials are now going back to interview all patients about the products they used.
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.
The CDC is also trying to match what its scientists are finding in tissue and fluid samples taken from patients’ lungs with substances the FDA is identifying in the products used by sick patients.
Dr Meaney-Delman said some of the samples are nicotine products and some are THC products from a variety of places.
In the meantime, the agency is instructing doctors to start asking patients about their vaping history and urging patients who vape to monitor themselves and seek medical attention for symptoms of cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea and vomiting.
Dr Meaney-Delman said the publication of chest X-rays and CT scans from affected patients in the New England Journal of Medicine should help doctors identify additional cases.
She said: “That’s helpful so physicians can look at the imaging, which has been really important to these diagnoses, and compare patients they have in front of them.”
E-cigarette manufacturers have distanced themselves from illicit “street vapes” and stressed that their products don’t contain the liquids under scrutiny.
Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, said: “We agree with the FDA. If you don’t want to die or end up in a hospital, stop vaping illegal THC oils immediately.”
Vaping in the UK
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.
Professor John Newton, director of health improvement at Public Health England, previously said that although they were aware of the risks, “there is widespread academic and clinical consensus that while not without risk, vaping is far less harmful than smoking”.
Regarding the spate of deathsin 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.”
But countless experts have urged caution, warning not enough is known about the long-term effects of vaping.
Prof Martin McKee from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, is the latest UK-based expert to raise “serious concerns” about the devices.
He urged PHE to stop promoting e-cigs as a means to helping smokers quit.
We haven’t had e-cigarettes for long enough to know the true effects. But when we look at the evidence we do have, there are enough grounds for serious concerns
Prof Martin McKee
“The nicotine in e-cigarettes is not a harmless drug and then there are all these other things such as flavourings that are inhaled.
“We haven’t had e-cigarettes for long enough to know the true effects. But when we look at the evidence we do have, there are enough grounds for serious concerns.
“Given the short-term effects on lung function and cardiovascular effects, there is enough evidence to say we should be very, very careful.”
His comments aren’t the first to throw the safety of vaping pens into question.
MORE ON E-CIGARETTES
We previously revealed that millions of vapers are at higher risk of heart attack and stroke, with vaping increasing the risk by as much as 71 per cent.
Two popular flavourings – caramel and popcorn – have also been found to destroy lung function.
And in March, a study found that vapers were twice as likely to suffer wheezing and breathing difficulties as non-smokers.
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