MASON CITY – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued a Health Advisory regarding severe pulmonary disease associated with e-cigarette use. The CDC is providing information on the multistate outbreak and the symptoms shown by those with severe pulmonary disease, as well as recommendations for the public.
The CDC has announced there are “380 confirmed and probable cases of lung disease” associated with e-cigarette use (vaping) in the United States that have been reported to the agency as of Sept. 11, 2019. Six deaths have been confirmed. Iowa is investigating 8 cases of respiratory illnesses.
Although the cause of e-cigarette-associated pulmonary disease is undetermined, investigations in affected states are ongoing to better characterize the exposures, demographic, clinical, and laboratory features and behaviors of patients.
Based on reports from several states, patients have experienced respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain), and some have also experienced gastrointestinal symptoms (nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea) or non-specific symptoms (fatigue, fever, or weight loss). 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. Gastrointestinal symptoms sometimes preceded respiratory symptoms. Fever, tachycardia, and elevated white blood cell count have been reported in the absence of an identifiable infectious disease.
To date, no single substance or e-cigarette product has been consistently associated with illness. The CDC is working closely with state health departments to facilitate collecting product specimens for testing at the U.S. FDA Forensic Chemistry Center.
“Since vaping is such a recent development, the lifelong effects of it are still unknown”, states Penny McCaslin, Tobacco Program Coordinator at CG Public Health. “However, this supposedly “safer” alternative is not safe. Unfortunately, we’re beginning to see the proof.”
E-cigarettes typically contain nicotine, most also contain flavorings and other chemicals, and some may contain marijuana or other substances. They are known by many different names and come in various shapes, sizes and device types. Devices may be referred to as “e-cigs,” “vapes,” “e-hookahs,” “vape pens,” “mods,” “tanks”, or electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS). Some devices resemble other tobacco products such as cigarettes; some resemble ordinary household items such as USB flash drives, pens, and flashlights; and others have unique shapes. Use of e-cigarettes is sometimes referred to as “vaping” or “juuling.” E-cigarettes used for dabbing are sometimes called “dab” pens.
“Data shows 42% of North Iowa students have tried vaping,” states McCaslin. “As a community, we need to be educated about the risks of e-cigarettes and take action at all levels to protect our youth.”
E-cigarettes can contain harmful or potentially harmful substances, including nicotine, heavy metals (e.g., lead), volatile organic compounds, and cancer-causing chemicals. Additionally, some e-cigarette products are used to deliver illicit substances; may be acquired from unknown or unauthorized (i.e., “street”) sources; and may be modified for uses that could increase their potential for harm to the user. For example, some e-cigarette pods or cartridges marketed for single use can be refilled with illicit or unknown substances.
Recommendations for the Public
- Refrain from using e-cigarette products.
- Do not buy these products off the street (e.g., e-cigarette products with THC, other cannabinoids).
- Never modify e-cigarette products or add any substances to these products that are not intended by the manufacturer.
- E-cigarette products should not be used by youth, young adults, pregnant women, or adults who do not currently use tobacco products.
- If you use e-cigarette products, monitor yourself for symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath, chest pain) and promptly seek medical attention if you have concerns about your health.
- Adult smokers who are attempting to quit should use evidence-based treatments, including counseling and FDA-approved medications (look for patches, gum, lozenges).
- If you are concerned about harmful effects from e-cigarette products, call your local poison control center at: 1-800-222-1222.
- Submit detailed reports of any unexpected tobacco or e-cigarette-related health or product issues to the FDA via the online Safety Reporting Portal:https://www.safetyreporting.hhs.gov.
The Iowa Department of Public Health just released a new program for teens who want to quit using tobacco, including e-cigarettes and vape. The new My Life My Quit program includes educational materials designed for teens and created through focus groups with teens, subject matter experts, and community stakeholders. Teens can text or call a toll-free number (855-891-9989) dedicated for teens, or they can visit mylifemyquit.com for real-time coaching.
Parents and healthcare providers can find vaping resources and talking points at https://www.cdc.gov/e-cigarettes.
For more information on vaping cessation and programs provided by CG Public Health, call 641-421-9300 or visit www.cghealth.com.