US health agency issues warning about vaping in light of recent mysterious illnesses

'The available science is inconclusive on whether e-cigarettes are effective for quitting smoking

Sabrina Barr
Saturday 31 August 2019 11:39 BST
(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

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Louise Thomas

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Health officials in the US have issued a warning about vaping in light of the recent mysterious illnesses linked to use of e-cigarettes.

Earlier this month, it was reported that 153 cases of vaping-related respiratory illnesses had been recorded in the US.

While federal and state officials said that they remain uncertain as to what has caused the spout of illnesses, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that all the cases occurred among patients who admitted vaping either nicotine or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

In a statement released by the CDC on Friday, the organisation warned that e-cigarettes "can contain harmful or potentially harmful substances, including nicotine, heavy metals (e.g. lead), volatile organic compounds, and cancer-causing chemicals".

The health agency added that young people, women who are pregnant and adults who do not have a past history of smoking should refrain from using e-cigarettes.

"E-cigarettes containing nicotine have the potential to help some individual adult smokers reduce their use of and transition away from cigarettes," the CDC stated.

"However, e-cigarettes are not currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a quit smoking aid, and the available science is inconclusive on whether e-cigarettes are effective for quitting smoking."

The CDC added that as of Tuesday 27 August, 215 possible cases of vaping-related illnesses had been reported in 25 US states, while "additional reports of pulmonary illness are under investigation".

The agency referenced a specific case in Illinois where a patient died after being hospitalised with severe pulmonary disease.

"All patients have reported using e-cigarette products and the symptom onset has ranged from a few days to several weeks after e-cigarette use," the statement read.

"To date, no single substance or e-cigarette product has been consistently associated with illness. CDC is working closely with state health departments to facilitate collecting product specimens for testing at the US FDA Forensic Chemistry Centre."

E-cigarette and vapour companies in the US are required to submit pre-market tobacco applications to the FDA by 12 May 2020 for approval.

If the companies' applications are not approved, they will no longer be allowed to sell their products.

On Thursday, Juul CEO Kevin Burns was interviewed by CBS This Morning about the impact increasing popularity of vaping has had on smoking rates in the US.

During the interview, Burns was asked for his views on the fact that e-cigarettes have become popular among non-smokers, despite being marketed as an alternative to tobacco cigarettes.

Juul CEO discourages non-smokers from vaping

"Don't vape. Don't use Juul," the CEO said when asked what advice he would give to non-smokers.

"Don't start using nicotine if you don't have a pre-existing relationship with nicotine. Don't use the product. You're not our target consumer."

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