Panic as vaping-related deaths rise

By | September 11, 2019

E-cigarettes could soon be banned in the US as doctors raise the alarm about a mysterious lung disease that has sickened hundreds and killed six, with the epidemic linked to vaping.

On Tuesday the White House confirmed it plans to ban the sale of flavoured e-cigarettes over concerns about health risks, as well as the potential for addiction among kids and teens.

The US Centre for Disease Control said vaping is suspected to be the cause of more than 450 cases of severe lung disease and six deaths across the country, and has urged consumers to reconsider their need to use e-cigarettes and vape pens — used to inhale flavoured nicotine — while investigations continue into the cause of the public health scare.

“We are investigating a multistate outbreak of severe pulmonary disease associated with e-cigarette product (devices, liquids, refill pods, and/or cartridges) use,” the CDC said.

“This investigation is ongoing and has not identified a cause, but all reported cases have a history of using e-cigarette products.”

The American Lung Association also issued a warning that “e-cigarettes are not safe.”

“No one should use e-cigarettes or any other tobacco product,” a statement read.


An estimated 10 million people in the US — nearly half of them under 35 — use vape pens or e-cigarettes such as the popular brand JUUL, which have been marketed as a healthier alternative to normal smoking because they do not contain the tar or carcinogens of traditional cigarettes.

But mounting evidence suggests there are dangers associated with vaping.

Symptoms with which otherwise healthy people have been presenting to doctor’s offices and hospitals include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, coughing, fever and shortness of breath.

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Authorities are focusing their investigation on the chemical vitamin E acetate, which has been found in a product linked to each e-cigarette-related death so far.

A 50-year-old woman in Kansas who had recently started using e-cigarettes this week became the sixth person to die of vaping-related causes, prompting local authorities to warn the public of the dangers.

“If you or a loved one is vaping, please stop,” Dr Lee Norman, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the state health officer, said.

“The recent deaths across our country, combined with hundreds of reported lung injury cases continue to intensify.”

The unnamed woman had pre-existing health issues, but her condition deteriorated rapidly after she started using e-cigarettes. It’s unclear what kind she used.


The public health crisis has also claimed many young victims.

As of Thursday a 21-year-old Minnesota man had been hooked up to a ventilator for 10 days after being hospitalised when his nausea and lethargy turned into life-threatening lung failure.

The parents of student Elijah McClure, who was otherwise healthy until his respiratory illness began, told local station Kare11 they begged their son, who started vaping when he was 15, to stop, but he was unable to quit and continued the habit in secret.

“The violent retching with the dry heaving and vomiting, the pain that he was going through really shook me to my core,” Elijah’s father Cedric said.

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In strikingly similar circumstances, last month 18-year-old Los Angeles woman Simah Herman was rushed to hospital unable to breathe.

Doctors discovered her lungs were inflamed and filled with fluid. Two days later, still unable to breathe, she was placed on a ventilator and then in a medically induced coma, which she woke from several days later.

Ms Herman has since revealed she inhaled from a vape pen approximately every 15 minutes.

Her doctor told America’s ABC News she believes e-cigarette use caused her severe illness.

“My best guess since we’re still learning about what is really going on in the lungs is [it’s a] profound inflammatory reaction to the vape products or some … component of the vape products,” Dr Kathryn Melamed said.

In an Instagram post that has attracted almost one million likes, Ms Herman called for a no-vaping awareness campaign.

“The doctors didn’t think I was going to make it, but with prayers from family and friends I pulled through after almost a week on a ventilator,” she captioned a heartbreaking photo of herself in a hospital bed.

“No one thinks this will happen to them and neither did I, which is why I kept vaping.

“It took less than 48 hours for me to be put in a drug induced coma and a tube put down my throat because I could no longer breathe on my own.

“The dangers of vaping are real and this can happen to you.”

E-cigarettes containing nicotine are banned in Australia, but many people import them from overseas. According to the Australian National Drug Strategy Household Survey, 6.4 per cent of smokers aged 18-24 use e-cigarettes, although this number is potentially much higher.

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