🔒 Chilling truths on e-cigarette harm: SA joins globe in urging tough anti-vaping laws

Yesterday I found myself struggling to get out of a vaping cloud in a busy pedestrian walkway. I couldn’t help wondering what harm the opaque steam was doing to active and passive smokers. I didn’t have to wait long to learn the chilling truth. As I opened up The Wall Street Journal for my daily digest of global news, there was a story outlining the stark rise in respiratory illnesses as e-cigarettes replace their old-fashioned paper and tobacco forerunners. However, unlike the old-fashioned variety of cigarettes, which is linked to cancer and other illnesses particularly as people grow older, vaping is harming people very early on in their inhalation journey. The Wall Street Journal warns that, in the US, there is a vaping epidemic. In South Africa there have been calls to ban e-cigarettes, as India has and China seems likely to do, and Finance Minister Tito Mboweni has spoken about a tax on the vaping sector to dis-incentivise the uptake of e-cigarettes. It’s good news that, for a change, South Africa might be among the countries, that are ahead of the curve in trying to prevent what threatens to be a health crisis of epic proportions affecting people at their prime. – Jackie Cameron

CDC reports rising incidence of vaping injuries

By Thomas M. Burton

(The Wall Street Journal) – Hundreds of new cases of lung injuries linked to e-cigarettes have arisen during federal and state investigations over the past week, a federal health official told House lawmakers Tuesday during a hearing on vaping.

Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, said vaping-related injuries had surpassed the previously reported estimate of 530 and that officials believe the eight reported fatalities linked to the practice have also been exceeded.

Dr. Schuchat was testifying before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform’s economic and consumer policy subcommittee. That panel’s chairman, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D., Ill.), said Tuesday that vaping products were generally “released onto the market without safety testing and trials.”

Dr. Schuchat called youth vaping an epidemic affecting nearly all US states, with half of all cases appearing in people 25 and younger. Most of the products involved in the reported injuries or illnesses are believed to be black-market ones that include THC, a psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, though she said that chemical isn’t necessarily the culprit. She also said three out of four such patients are male.

The CDC’s most recent report a week ago had described 530 cases of respiratory disease linked to vaping, and Dr. Schuchat said she expects the agency’s next weekly report to include a “much higher” number.

But, she said, no single ingredient or additive has been implicated in all cases and that the CDC is referring to these cases only as lung injury.

“We don’t know if there’s a new, particularly risky product” that has touched off the outbreak, she said.

Dr. Schuchat said some patients hadn’t been fully forthcoming about their use of adulterated vaping products. However, Mr. Krishnamoorthi said that about 20% of cases in Illinois and Wisconsin involved nicotine-based products without obvious adulterants.

“We have not ruled out any of the substances yet,” said Dr. Schuchat, nor could the CDC identify any risks posed by specific flavours added to e-cigarettes. She said her agency is trying to determine exactly which products the patients had used.

Dr. Schuchat said that “flavours are a big attractor” for young vape consumers, and added that “the legal market and the illicit market are very dynamic.”

Witness Ruby Johnson, a mother of seven from New Lenox, Ill., said in prepared testimony that her oldest daughter started having severe difficulty breathing while being taken to college in Colorado. She admitted that she had been vaping and that a classmate had given her an e-cigarette.

Ms. Johnson said her daughter was treated in an intensive-care unit after experiencing a very rapid heartbeat called tachycardia. She survived, but doctors couldn’t say what likelihood of permanent lung damage the young woman may face.

Another witness, Vicki Porter of Wisconsin, said e-cigarettes helped her kick her longtime smoking habit after other methods failed.

“I’ve been vaping for nine years, and I’ve never been healthier,” she said. “Vaping is a health miracle to me” and involves “inhalation of a much less harmful substance than smoking,” Ms. Porter asserted.

Dr. Ngozi O. Ezike, director of the Illinois Health Department, told the panel that one-third of the vaping injury cases in Illinois have required the patient to be put on a mechanical ventilator. She added that the chemicals in the aerosols used in vape products are themselves harmful to people.