(Oct. 7, 2019) As vaping injuries now top 1,000, with 18 deaths reported, the FDA issued an updated warning last week. The agency has said that most of the 1,080 reported injuries have come from THC-containing vaping products, but some medical professionals estimate that 10-30 percent of the reported injuries have come from people who were not vaping THC. Tetrahydrocannabinol, one of at least 113 cannabinoids identified in cannabis, is believed to be the principal psychoactive ingredient, the one thought to give cannabis users a “high.”
Vaping Injury Symptoms, Diagnosis
Vaping injury symptoms typically include shortness of breath, pain upon deep breathing, and coughing. A Mayo Clinic doctor has said that the lungs of injured vapers look as if they’ve been exposed to mustard gas which poisoned soldiers in WWI. Other medical examiners say the lungs look as if they’ve been exposed to toxic fumes from an industrial accident.
Related: JUUL E-Cigarette Lawsuit
Most Vaping Injuries among Younger People
The average age of the 18 deceased vapers is 49.5 years, said Dr. Henry Niman on the Jeff Rense radio show which aired Oct. 5. The deaths are concentrated in older patients, said Dr. Niman, with the youngest of the 18 fatalities reported as 27, the oldest as 70. The ages of the injured vapers are concentrated at the lower end of the age spectrum. The injured range from teenagers to people in their late 60s, with 67 percent of the injured being 18-35 years old, and 84 percent being under age 35.
While the FDA has reported that deaths are mostly from illicit THC-vaping products, Dr. Niman says that at least two vapers killed in Oregon bought their e-cigarette products at a legal dispensary. (THC is legal in Oregon.) Dr. Niman has also said that vapers have been injured who did not use a THC-containing product.
Injury Increase caused by Intense Heating?
The doctor believes that the alarming uptick in vaping injuries has come as a result of a new JUUL patent issued in 2017. JUUL officials discussed adjusting the temperature of the propylene glycol which is typically what is done to maximize the effects of nicotine. JUUL said that it would be preferable to heat the e-cigarette to 180-190 degrees Celcius (374 degrees Fahrenheit), and to heat the vegetable glycerin or (VG) up to to 280-290 degrees C (554 degrees Fahrenheit). The new JUUL poduct hit the market at the end of 2017. It quickly became increasingly popular as enormous JUUL marketing campaigns blanketed the country, expertly hooking kids and thousands of unwitting others on nicotine.
Though reported lung injury cases went back to Spring 2019, there was a big jump in cases during June and July this year. Dr. Niman believes that increase in injuries has something to do with JUUL’s temperature-adjustment changes that began in 2017 with a newl-patented product. Perhaps that incredible heat alone could damage lungs, but there is also the question of unknown ingredients which JUUL will not reveal until it is forced to do so by the FDA or by legal discovery in JUUL e-cigarette lawsuits. Plaintiffs’ attorneys are already beginning to pursue litigation against the company, for causing lung injuries as well as for encouraging chemical addiction.
FDA Chief Warns against THC Vapes
Amid the growing vaping crisis, on Oct. 4 the acting commissioner of the U.S. FDA warned the public to avoid using THC-containing vaping products. Acting FDA Commissioner Norman E. Sharpless said in a statement that the FDA’s updated alert also warns consumers who choose to use vaping products to not modify or add substances such as THC or other oils to products purchased in stores. The agency also cautioned against purchasing any vaping products through illicit channels.
“At this time, the FDA does not have enough data to identify the cause, or causes, of the lung injuries in these cases,” Mr. Sharpless said in the press release. “While no one compound or ingredient has emerged as a singular culprit, we do know that THC is present in most of the samples being tested. Because of this, the agency believes it is prudent to stop using vaping products that contain THC or that have had any substances added to them, including those purchased from retail establishments.”
Mr. Sharpless said those who continue using vaping products should monitor for symptoms and promptly seek medical attention if they have health concerns. He also repeated a prior warning that no children or pregnant women should use any vaping product. Those who experience unexpected tobacco or vaping-related health or product issues should submit detailed reports to the FDA through its online safety reporting portal, he said.
Vaping Injuries top 1,000 as FDA updates warning
Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC, said in an Oct. 3 telephone press conference that the 18 deaths confirmed and reported to the CDC have come from 15 states. More deaths are under investigation. Dr. Schuchat said vaping injury cases have been reported from 48 states and the Virgin Islands. In addition, 275 cases have been identified since late September 2019, including new patients and updated diagnoses on existing patients.
She also repeated previous agency statements that the FDA has not identified any specific substance or product that is linked to all the cases.