Mystery illness: An e-cig reckoning
A mysterious vaping-induced lung illness is proving that “safer than smoking cigarettes” does not mean “safe,” said Amanda Mull in TheAtlantic.com. Six people have died since August from this lung syndrome, which has severely sickened more than 475 Americans in recent months. Almost all patients have required hospitalization for severe shortness of breath, lung inflammation, fever, dizziness, and vomiting. Now federal health officials are warning people to avoid e-cigarettes, while scientists race to explain why “otherwise healthy” young people are falling ill. Officials say many patients were using bootleg marijuana vaporizers bought off the street, with “vape juice” diluted by vitamin E acetate, a popular skin-care oil that inflames the lungs when heated and inhaled. Some patients also used nicotine vapes, whose health risks are largely unknown despite 14 million U.S. users.
Despite this “scaremongering,” vaping is still “safer than smoking cigarettes,” said Guy Bentley in WashingtonExaminer.com. Smoking cigarettes is the leading cause of preventable death, and researching and regulating vaping “shouldn’t come at the expense” of the millions of people who have chosen to vape rather than smoke. It appears that most people with this mystery vaping illness “were using illegal and unregulated products,” often to get high on cannabis oil. Not a single case of severe lung problems has been confirmed to come from legal e-cigarettes, such as the popular Juul. Now several states may follow San Francisco in banning them outright. The result will be more cigarette smokers, including teens.
Youth vaping is its own health crisis, said Julia Belluz in Vox.com. Teen usage of vapes doubled, to 21 percent, from 2017 to 2018, “the largest increase ever recorded for any substance.” With candy-like flavors such as mango and watermelon, vape giants have marketed to minors, and this week the Food and Drug Administration said Juul unlawfully advertised its products as safer alternatives to cigarettes. In fact, studies have linked vaping to wheezing, and nicotine is known to raise blood pressure, cause arteries to narrow, and even cause seizures in large amounts. The FDA didn’t gain oversight of e-cigarettes until 2016, said USA Today in an editorial, and within that “regulatory vacuum” a “Wild West culture emerged.” The “good news” is that a federal judge recently green-lighted an FDA safety review of e-cigarettes. “In the meantime, vapers beware.”