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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will investigate 127 reports of people suffering seizures and other neurological symptoms after using e-cigarettes.
The agency said these reported cases occurred between 2010 and 2019, and, in addition to seizures, some people reported fainting or tremors.
“It is imperative that health care professionals, consumers, parents, teachers, and other concerned adults, as well as youth and young adult users, report detailed information about any past or future incidents of seizures following e-cigarette use to the FDA,” Sharpless FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless said in a statement.
As the popularity of e-cigarettes has surged in recent years, so has the public’s confusion over the health risks these products pose.
“Nobody knows what it does to the human lung to breathe in and out aerosolized propylene glycol and glycerin over and over. It’s an experiment, frankly,” Dr. Robert Jackler, founder of Stanford Research Into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising, said at a congressional hearing last month.
What Do We Know About E-cigarettes?
In 2018, CDC and FDA data showed that more than 3.6 million U.S. youth, including 1 in 5 high school students and 1 in 20 middle school students, used e-cigarettes in the previous month.
According to a National Institutes of Health report, e-cigarettes lead more kids to smoke. Worse, it has the potential to harm users, especially young ones.
“We have to remember the developing brain [is] exquisitely sensitive to chemicals,” Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News’ chief medical correspondent, said. “We know nicotine is highly addictive that can result in a lack of concentration and absolutely can be a gateway… and can result in difficulty with impulse control. Not something that we need more of in a teenager or a young adult.”
E-cigarettes are still relatively new, and researchers need to conduct more analysis over a more extended period to know what the long-term effects may be. What they do know is that these products contain high concentrations of nicotine, which if swallowed, can be poisonous and cause side effects such as seizures.
Moreover, e-cigarettes and vapes may contain poisonous chemicals or substances that can cost health damage, such as volatile organic compounds. Those substances can cause:
- Eye, nose, and throat irritation
- Headaches and nausea
- Damage to the liver, kidney, and nervous system
Flavoring chemicals used in e-cigarettes are more toxic than others. Many studies have shown that flavors contain different levels of a chemical called diacetyl that has been linked to a severe lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans.
Another cancer-causing substance, Formaldehyde, “may form if e-liquid overheats or not enough liquid is reaching the heating element (known as a “dry-puff”),” according to the American Cancer Society.
A recent study from Stanford University found that e-cigarette flavorings damage human blood vessel cells grown in the lab — even in the absence of nicotine.
“This study clearly shows that e-cigarettes are not a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes,” Dr. Joseph Wu, director of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute, said in a statement. “When we exposed the cells to six different flavors of e-liquid with varying levels of nicotine, we saw significant damage. The cells were less viable in culture, and they began to exhibit multiple symptoms of dysfunction.”
Latest study from researchers at University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine reveals that e-cigarettes changes blood vessels after just one use.
Using an MRI, the researchers examined the veins and arteries of 31 people before and after they took a few puffs of an e-cigarette.
“The results of our study defeat the notion that e-cigarette vaping is harmless,” says Felix Wehrli, the study’s principal investigator, in a press release.
Do E-Cigarettes Need Stronger Regulations to Prevent Youth Access and Use?
The American Academy of Pediatrics thinks so. In its recent policy statement, the coalition called for immediate federal intervention to restrict the marketing and sales of e-cigarettes to youth in its policy statement.
“To prevent children, adolescents, and young adults from transitioning from e-cigarettes to traditional cigarettes and minimize the potential public health harm from e-cigarette use, there is a critical need for e-cigarette regulation, legislative action, and counter promotion to protect youth.” the group states.
While the federal government grapples with this issue, states across the nation are tightening up rules on tobacco use, including raising age requirements.
In California, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors voted to ban e-cigarettes on June 25, 2019, becoming the first city in the U.S. to ban these products. The ordinance prohibits selling nicotine pods or devices that haven’t been approved by the FDA. It will take effect 30 days after it is signed. Full implementation is set to begin six months after.
Still, there is some movement at the federal level.
Earlier this year, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced legislation that would raise the minimum smoking age in America to 21.
In the meantime, regulatory officials at the FDA will continue its investigation.
“Additional reports or more detailed information about these incidents are vital to help inform our analysis and may help us identify common risk factors and determine whether any specific e-cigarette product attributes, such as nicotine content or formulation, may be more likely to contribute to seizures,” FDA Commissioner Sharpless said.
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