Vaping is unregulated and unsafe — get the facts

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We are in the midst of a national investigation of vape-associated lung disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), state and local health departments (including those in Idaho), and other clinical and public health partners are investigating a multistate outbreak of lung injury associated with e-cigarette product use. We all have a lot of questions about vaping, and I hope we can answer some of those today, but the bottom line is that vaping is unregulated and it’s not safe.

I hear a lot of people being skeptical of the outbreak and the messaging around whether vaping is safe. Many say they have vaped for years and aren’t sick. Can you explain why that might be?

That is what this public health investigation is trying to learn. We do not yet know the specific cause of the lung disease. The investigation has not identified any specific e-cigarette or vaping product or substance that is linked to all the cases. This investigation is how public health officials are gathering as much information as possible about each of the cases so they can figure out what it is about these cases that is different and causing disease.

How does an investigation like this work?

Essentially, when a sick person visits a clinic with symptoms that align with the case definition for this outbreak, the medical professional will notify the state health department and will give officials data and information about the patient. That report triggers a response from an epidemiologist, who will contact the patient and interview them about the products they have used, how often they use them, their health status, and anything else that might be relevant to the investigation. As information is gathered, public health officials can see what is similar in all of these cases and eventually be able to determine a cause.

What are the symptoms?

Patients in this investigation have reported symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, fever, and abdominal pain. Some have reported that their symptoms developed over a few days while others reported their symptoms developed over several weeks. A lung infection does not appear to be causing the symptoms. If you use vaping products and you experience these symptoms, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

What do we know about the cases so far?

  • Most patients have reported a history of using e-cigarette products containing THC. Many patients have reported using THC and nicotine. Some have reported the use of products containing only nicotine.
  • No consistent e-cigarette or vaping product, substance, or additive has been identified in all cases, nor has any one product or substance been conclusively linked to lung disease in patients.
  • All patients have a reported history of e-cigarette product use, and no consistent evidence of an infectious cause has been discovered. Therefore, the suspected cause is a chemical exposure.
  • Nearly three fourths of cases are male.
  • Two thirds are 18 to 34 years old. In Idaho the age range is 16-30.
  • A small percentage of the cases are younger than 18 years or 35 years or older.

So if you use vape products, what should you do?

  • Adults who do not currently use tobacco products should not start using e-cigarette products. They are unregulated and they are not safe.
  • Anyone who uses an e-cigarette or vaping product should not buy these products off the street. They also should not modify or add any substances to these products that are not intended by the manufacturer.
  • Youth and young adults should not use e-cigarette products.
  • Women who are pregnant should not use e-cigarette products.

Resources

(Note: A Closer Look At Your Health airs most Tuesdays at 6:50 a.m. on KBOI News Radio 670. This is an edited transcript from Oct. 1.)

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