Federal experts are investigating reports of severe lung illnesses in people who used e-cigarettes (also known as vaping). So far 25 states have reported 215 possible cases of severe lung disease linked to vaping, including one man who died in Illinois.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are continuing to gather information on these cases to determine if specific devices, ingredients, or contaminants in the devices, or substances are linked to these illnesses. They are assisting state and local health officials and doctors on how to better understand the illnesses and their causes.
According to the CDC, many patients reported symptoms that started slowly, including having shortness of breath, coughing, or chest pain. Some patients reported vomiting, diarrhea, or other stomach problems, as well as fever or fatigue. Some patients who reported symptoms said they used e-cigarette products that contained THC and other chemicals found in marijuana.
There is still a lot the CDC and FDA don't know. So far, the health agencies have not found one specific product, chemical or substance that's linked to all the cases, or whether the illnesses are different diseases with similar symptoms. The CDC and FDA are investigating the brand and types of e-cigarette products used and analyzing samples in their labs to determine if they contain nicotine, THC, or other chemicals or ingredients that could be causing the illnesses.
Children, teenagers, young adults, pregnant women, and people who do not currently use tobacco products should never use e-cigarettes.
For people who vape and are concerned about these illnesses, the CDC recommends refraining from using e-cigarettes .The CDC also recommends:
- Do not buy e-cigarette products "off the street.
- Do not modify e-cigarette products or add anything to them.
- If you have symptoms including cough, shortness of breath, and chest pain, go to the doctor.
- If you use any tobacco product, including e-cigarettes, and want to quit, contact your doctor
- If you are concerned about the harmful effects of e-cigarette products, call poison control: 1-800-222-1222.
- The FDA also encourages people who have any health or other problems related to tobacco or e-cigarette problems to report them to their online Safety Reporting Portal.
Learn more about e-cigarettes
E-cigarettes are still fairly new, and more research is needed over a longer period of time to know what the long-term effects may be. The American Cancer Society is closely watching for new research about the effects of using e-cigarettes and other new tobacco products.
The vapor or aerosol that comes out of an e-cigarette can contain substances that are addictive and can cause lung disease, heart disease, and cancer. Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is very addictive and can harm the brain development of teenagers. If used during pregnancy, nicotine may also cause premature births and low birthweight babies.
"The American Cancer Society strongly urges that non-smokers should never start using e-cigarettes or vaping in any form," said the Society's Chief Cancer Control Officer Rich Wender, MD. "Adult smokers who may be using vaping devices instead of smoking regular cigarettes should attempt to quit all nicotine containing substances, including e-cigarettes. Adults who vape and are not ready or able to quit should only use unaltered e-cigarette products, should not purchase vaping products from an unknown source, and should not add anything to the devices."
This story first appeared on cancer.org.