Vaping Lung Injury Deaths May Have Been Caused By Multiple Syndromes: Study

New research suggests the side effects of vaping may increase the risk of hospitalization or death for individuals who suffer from preexisting heart, respiratory or mental health conditions.

In a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine on April 23, researchers compared the characteristics of patients with fatal and non-fatal e-cigarette, or vaping, product use–associated lung injury (EVALI) cases to determine whether preexisting medical conditions increased their risk of death.

Since August 2019, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), along with state and local health officials, have been investigating a national outbreak of lung injuries linked to vaping which have hospitalized thousands with severe respiratory illnesses similar to pneumonia, and also led to dozens of deaths.

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Researchers looked at 2,558 cases of hospitalization and 60 deaths associated with EVALI which occurred before January 7, 2020. According to their findings, 44% of patients with fatal cases had a history of respiratory disease, 47% had a history of cardiac disease, 65% had history of a mental health condition and more than 50% of patients were obese.

Researchers recommended healthcare providers treating patients for EVALI check patient medical history for respiratory issues, mental health conditions and obesity, as each of these conditions were found in more than 50% of participant cases.

The study also found that those using THC containing nicotine had higher fatality rates. According to case data, most of the patients with fatal cases reported using-cigarettes or vaping products containing THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, whereas less than one third of the patients with fatal cases reported nicotine use only, and almost one quarter reported dual use.

Researchers noted the use of vaping products containing THC had a significantly higher statistical relation to mortality cases.

The study concluded that there are multiple syndromes of vaping-induced lung disease, which is still a relatively new problem the nation is facing.

Vaping Lung Injury Concerns

The vaping lung injury problems were first reported by health officials in Illinois and Wisconsin in early August 2019, after several cases of severe lung injury were identified, where e-cigarettes were the only common factor. However, since then, health officials nationwide have either identified similar cases, or realized they had treated similar cases without knowing about the e-cigarette connection.

Part of the difficult process for diagnosing vaping lung illness is ruling out other infections, autoimmune disorders, and other conditions, experts say. In a case study by the Journal of the American College of Emergency Physicians (JACEP) Open, a doctor tested a 20 year old patient for strep, HIV, hepatitis and other diseases which came back negative. The treating doctor was forced to insert cameras into patient airways to examine the lungs to confirm the EVALI case.

The CDC has recently linked the majority of illnesses to vape pens containing THC and vitamin E acetate.

Amid growing concerns about these potential vaping side effects, there has also been increased scrutiny of e-cigarettes by U.S. regulators and health officials, especially involving the widespread marketing of JUUL and other devices directed towards teens and prior non-smokers.

As a result of high levels of nicotine contained in e-cigarettes, there is now an epidemic of vaping and teens addicted to JUUL in the United States, leading to bans on certain flavored products designed to appeal to minors.

A growing number of vaping injury lawsuits continue to be filed against JUUL and the makers of other e-cigarettes, not only involving problems with severe lung damage, but also alleging that the products resulted in life-long nicotine addictions and other injuries.

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