Lung Disease from E-Cigarettes Spreading Worldwide
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Lung disease caused by vaping, which has led to lung illness and several deaths in the US, is spreading worldwide, according to a British expert.
Professor Stanton Glantz, director of the Centre for Tobacco Research Control & Education in San Francisco, who was instrumental in the release of 90 million pages of secret tobacco industry documents, told the Observer that claims it would be largely confined to the US were “silly”.
Public Health England (PHE) says the crisis in the US is strongly associated with the vaping of cannabis oils, sometimes with vitamin E acetate, a cutting agent used by black-market dealers, something that is prohibited in the UK. The agency says it has not issued a health alert, believing the “evidence on the causes of the cases in the US is not yet conclusive”, The Guardian reported.
“What they (PHE) are saying is frankly ridiculous,” Glantz said. “Lungs are lungs. To argue that the health effects being observed somehow stop at the water line when you move on to the British Isles is silly.”
Glantz said he could not understand PHE’s position on vaping. “I can’t figure it out. There is some kind of groupthink going on over there, it’s almost like watching a religious cult.”
Many of the cases in the US involve lipoid pneumonia – a form of lung inflammation caused by the build-up of fat particles (lipids).
On his blog, Glantz said: “Our colleagues in England who remain wedded to e-cigarettes have been saying that the cases of lipoid pneumonia are an American phenomena.”
He highlighted a little-referenced report last year in the BMJ in which four Birmingham doctors disclosed that they had identified lipoid pneumonia in “a young female vaper … with insidious onset cough, progressive dyspnoea on exertion, fever, night sweats … in respiratory failure when admitted to hospital”.
The team carried out chest scans and thoracic surgery on the patient.
They noted: “The only source of lipid was the vegetable glycerine found in e-cigarettes. Despite our advice to quit vaping, she continued to use e-cigarettes with different flavors and there is not much improvement in her clinical and spirometric (breathing test) parameters.”
Studies suggest that the base components of vaping fluid – propylene glycol and glycerin – are producing chemical reactions when mixed with flavor additives that leave oil droplets on the lungs, which may mean that even those who do not vape THC (the main active ingredient of cannabis) and vitamin E acetate are at risk.
“I know a lot of the people leading the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigations, and I’ve talked to them about this,” Glantz said. “When they say we haven’t figured this out yet, that’s the truth. My guess is they will find several different agents contributing to this. But if you look at every statement that has come out of the CDC, they say many of the people use THC vapes, but a lot didn’t.”
Glantz said that he had been contacted by US lawyers representing poorly vapers who had been using the devices solely for nicotine vaping.
“Every week the evidence keeps piling up that these things are very dangerous,” he said.
Last week, an investigation by Bloomberg News found at least 15 incidents of lung injuries linked to vaping had occurred before this year’s epidemic in the US. It said the cases spanned the globe – from Guam to Japan to England and the US.
As of last week, US health officials said they knew of 805 confirmed and probable cases and 12 deaths from respiratory illnesses tied to vaping.
Confirmed deaths have been reported in California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri and Oregon. The investigations have not identified that any specific e-cigarette brands or additives are to blame.
Professor John Newton, director of health improvement at Public Health England, said the problems in the US should not deter smokers from using e-cigarettes to stop smoking.
“Smoking causes 200 premature deaths in England every day, but vaping has helped hundreds of thousands of smokers quit tobacco,” Newton said. “The evidence remains clear that vaping isn’t risk-free but it is far less harmful than smoking. It would be tragic if smokers who could quit with the help of e-cigarettes did not do so because of false fears about their safety.”