What many are calling a “vaping outbreak” has lead to nearly 1,300 lung injuries and 23 deaths among young, healthy people in the US. As the mystery behind how vapes or vaping effects the human body is becoming apparent, more people are beginning to question the popular trend.
Recent investigations have lead authorities to believe more than one thing is causing the recent “vaping outbreak”. Substances smoked through a vape have been linked to burdening the lungs and making it increasingly difficult for them to pump oxygen through the body. Whether the substances are chemical or oil the same results are experienced.
Majority of recent patients suffering from vaping have experienced a shortness of breath, chest pains, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, fever and coughing. In other cases a condition being called “EVALI” or “e-cigarette or vaping product use associated lung injury” is causing to life-threatening conditions.
Speaking to Live Science, Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the Boston University School of Public Health said the recent outbreak is related to lung damaged caused by inhaling the types of oils that are often used as thickening agents, these are most prevalent in THC-vaping cartridges.
The oil vitamin E acetate was found in many samples taken from suffering patients, this oil is found in almost half of all THC-containing vape products according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Oils like this coat the lungs and prevent proper exchange of oxygen. This leads to inflammation and respiratory failure.
It has also been considered that the chemical components in vaping liquid could also be toxic to the lungs. When tissue samples from patients were viewed under the microscope the tissue damage was consistent with that of patients who breathed in chemical fumes.
While the US struggles with death from vaping, South Africa is seemingly unaware of the dangers.
In the South African market it has been noted that many e-cigarette or vaping companies fail to list all of their ingredients. On top of this many cigarette smokers are swapping up their addiction for e-cigarettes, which have been linked to health risks that traditional cigarettes don’t usually cause. The fine and ultrafine particles released in the vapour of e-cigarettes and not in tobacco cigarette smoke are easily deposited into the deeper parts of the respiratory system, which can lead to non-cancer lung disease.
Professor Anthony Westwood, paediatric and child health specialist at the University of Cape Town, told UCT News, “There is increasing evidence showing that both nicotine and the aerosols from these products result in harm such as pulmonary inflammation, impaired immunity and reduced lung function.”
Many local health organisations are concerned that the long-term side effects of e-cigarettes and vapes are not known and could be dangerous.
The Forum of International Respiratory Societies issued a position statement in 2014 which called for more evidence to be made accessible, and recommended that e-cigarettes be restricted or banned until more information about their safety is available. In 2018, it released a new position statement around e-cigarette use among youth, calling for the regulation of e-cigarettes as tobacco products and their inclusion in smoke-free policies to protect this vulnerable part of the population from e-cigarettes and other nicotine delivery devices.
Research on the effects of vaping is lacking and while more and more people around the world pick up the habit, we are still unaware of the impact it could have on those who smoke on a daily basis.