E-cigarette users across the United States recently became subject to an epidemic of lung illnesses and captured national attention on the potential risks involved in vaping. Besides, the federal government and states also took certain policy actions in response.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported a 52 per cent rise in the number of affected people in a week, on Thursday. The figure of vape users with lung illnesses has risen to 806 from 530 recorded cases of previous week. Besides, 12 such individuals have died in comparison to last week’s total of seven.
Becoming widespread, the illness cases have been recorded from 46 states and the US Virgin Islands so far, while 10 states reported deaths. According to the CDC, among the 373 cases with patient details, nearly three-quarters were male: two-thirds were between 18 years to 34 years, and 16 percent were younger than 18 years.
As per the reports, people with such lung illnesses become weak and short of breath, where several require supplemental oxygen and treatment in intensive care units (ICU). Besides, some were often put on ventilators, while others were additionally connected to machines that pump oxygen directly to their lungs.
The exact cause of the respiratory illness remains undetermined, while the specific health risks associated with vaping are still uncertain.
The case of lung illnesses reported began in August, following the link that health officials made between vaping and the diseases, and reported it publicly. It was then that the doctors began questioning their patients with odd pneumonia-like illnesses about vaping. The rising figures in cases include both new and earlier cases that are being recognized now.
A majority of the sick people highlighted that they were vaping THC, an ingredient in marijuana that induces a high, but some also reported vaping only nicotine. Health officials stated that some patients who died were older and had underlying diseases. However, Mississippi health officials on Wednesday reported that a 30-year-old died due to vaping-related illness.
Health experts have not yet identified any specific substances, and say that multiple devices and ingredients may be the cause of lung illnesses. Moreover, following the outbreak, the state health departments, CDC and Food and Drug Administration are conducting investigations into the matter.
At a Wednesday hearing before a before a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the principal deputy director of the CDC official Dr Anne Schuchat said she was “extremely frustrated” at the investigation progress. “I wish we had answers already,” Schuchat said. “I actually think there may be a very complex set of root causes here that are going to be difficult for us to address as a nation. And we need to take it very seriously.”
She informed the panel that the investigation was difficult because the THC products suppliers were underground and operate illegally. Besides, the growing population of young people who are addicted to vaping complicate the problem further. “We have a very vulnerable population and a very challenging supply chain to address,” she said.
While the exact cause of lung illnesses remains unanswered, health experts have advised people to not vape. The CDC said that those who continue should at least not buy vape liquids of the street, or add ingredients to commercial products. Besides, the young people and pregnant women have been warned to never use them.