(Reuters) – The American Medical Association on Monday urged Americans to stop vaping of any sort until scientists have a better handle on the cause of 450 lung illnesses and at least five deaths related to the use of the products.
FILE PHOTO: Vaping products are displayed for sale in a shop in Manhattan in New York City, New York, U.S., February 6, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Segar
The recommendation followed advice from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday for people to consider not using e-cigarette products while it investigates the cause of the spate of severe lung illnesses associated with vaping.
Many, but not all, of the cases so far have been involved who used the devices to vaporize oils containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component of cannabis. CDC officials said some laboratories have identified vitamin E acetate in product samples and are investigating that as a possible cause of the illnesses.
Public health experts have not found any evidence of infectious diseases and believe the lung illnesses are likely associated with a chemical exposure.
Megan Constantino, 36, from St. Petersburg, Florida, quit vaping six days ago in response to reports of the illnesses and deaths related to vaping.
“It scared me into quitting,” she said.
Like many users of vaping pens, Constantino picked up the device after quitting cigarette smoking three years ago, and said, “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
“I threw the last cartridge away. I took a picture of it and I literally cried,” she said.
Constantino said many people who vape have been “on pins and needles” watching to see the results of the investigation, and she is concerned that the reports of a link to vaping THC may give people an excuse to ignore the warnings.
E-cigarettes are generally thought to be safer than traditional cigarettes, which kill up to half of all lifetime users, according to the World Health Organization. But the long-term health effects of vaping are largely unknown.
“We must not stand by while e-cigarettes continue to go unregulated. We urge the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to speed up the regulation of e-cigarettes and remove all unregulated products from the market,” Dr. Patrice Harris, president of the American Medical Association, said in a statement.
Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago; Additional reporting by Arjun Panchadar in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel and Lisa Shumaker