October 17, 2019

CDC warns against e-cigarettes

“I strongly urge all people, and especially otherwise healthy young people, to please think before inhaling foreign substances into your lungs,” Assistant Professor of Nursing Sue McFarlan said.

By Claudio Cobos

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed an outbreak of lung diseases associated with the use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) or vaping, citing 380 cases. The cases stem from 36 states and one U.S. territory.

According to the CDC, most of the patients admitted to having a history of using e-cigarettes and vaping products containing either tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive chemical in cannabis, or nicotine, the stimulant found in tobacco products.   

A report by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) stated the department works with local health departments to track where they obtain these products by categorizing them by name, type of e-cigarette, chemical compound and vaping device.  

The IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement Illinois had a disturbing rate of cases suffering from severe illnesses in the lung after using e-cigarettes. 

“The severity of illness people are experiencing is alarming, and we must get the word out that using e-cigarettes and vaping can be dangerous,” Dr. Ezike said. “We requested a team from the CDC to help us investigate these cases.”

CDC Director Robert R. Redfield said he is fully devoted to finding out the cause of this lung disease outbreak.  

“We are committed to finding out what is making people sick,” Redfield stated in a press release. “All available information is being carefully analyzed, and these initial findings are helping us to narrow the focus of our investigation and get us closer to the answers needed to save lives.”

Sue McFarlan, an assistant professor of the Webster Nursing Department, strongly advised students to be more cautious about what they put in their bodies. 

“I strongly urge all people, and especially otherwise healthy young people, to please think before inhaling foreign substances into your lungs,” McFarlan said. “As a nurse of 33 years, I have witnessed many patients struggling with the addiction to cigarettes, some after learning about their chronic lung or heart diseases. There are few substances more addicting, and it is a tough habit to break.”

Since July 2009, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about e-cigarettes to all consumers. Physicians from the Division of Pharmaceutical Analysis in the agency’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research said they detected levels of known carcinogens and toxic chemicals in samples from different products. 

According to FDA officials, the manufacturers first sold smokeless products, which are battery-operated devices that turn nicotine and other chemicals into a vapor, to users thinking it was safer than conventional cigarettes. 

“The industries surrounding e-cigarettes are lacking in regulation, and so little is known about the substances being inhaled into the lungs of those vaping,” McFarlan said.

Beth Cromer, a Webster student said the findings by the CDC and IDPH

Student Beth Cromer takes an e-cigarette break near the Sverdrup Complex. Cromer said the association between e-cigarettes and lung disease does not surprise her. Photo by Aly Camacho.

did not surprise her.

“I’m not surprised cause like anything that you’re inhaling into your lungs isn’t really good for it,” Cromer said. “Anything other than air isn’t good for your lungs” 

Despite this, Cromer continues to use e-cigarettes.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump called a ban on almost all flavored e-cigarettes. 

“While I like the Vaping alternative to Cigarettes, we need to make sure this alternative is SAFE for ALL!” Trump tweeted. “Let’s get counterfeits off the market and keep young children from Vaping!”

On Sept. 10, Trump said in a press conference the FDA would set strong recommendations related to the use of flavored e-cigarettes in a couple to come.

The Trump administration scheduled a meeting with the U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and the acting commissioner of the FDA Ned Sharpless with the President and the First Lady Melania Trump to suggest new policies that would ban flavored e-cigarettes.

The CDC reported it has not concluded what directly caused the illnesses.

 “The investigation has not identified any specific e-cigarette or vaping product (devices, liquids, refill pods, or cartridges) or substance that is linked to all cases,” the CDC reported.

Still, the FDA, CDC, and state partners are combining their findings from the exposures, results and clinical testing to identify the cause of lung disease outbreak in the U.S.

Sharpless guarantees collaboration with the federal and state public health organization to gather more information about any of the e-cigarettes products or the substance in the products. 

“We are leaving no stone unturned in following any potential leads, and we’re committed to taking appropriate actions as the facts emerge,” said Sharpless in a press release. 

“Our laboratory is working closely with our federal and state partners to identify the products or substances that may be causing the illnesses and have received more than 120 samples from the states so far,” Sharpless said.

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