The Trump administration has announced plans to restrict the sale of vapes after a spate of deaths.
In the United States, a spate of deaths reportedly linked to vaping – electronic cigarettes and other vaping devices – has prompted calls for government action.
Last week, Los Angeles County health officials reported a death stemming from vaping-linked lung illnesses, the fifth of its type around the country in recent weeks.
“Nationwide, we are learning how dangerous these devices may be, and the long-term health impacts remain unknown at this time,” Los Angeles County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said in a written statement.
“We are compelled to warn our 10 million residents that the risks of using these devices, with or without nicotine, marijuana, CBD or some street concoction, may now include severe lung injury.”
Davis urged everyone to “think twice” about vaping until more “is known about their impacts on the health of their users, and the role they play as a contributor to lung damage leading to death”.
The California death was the third of its type in 48 hours, following a similar incident in Oregon and another in Indiana.
Urging people not to vape, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it was investigating 450 possible cases of lung disease stemming from the use of e-cigarettes, a number twice the size of such cases a week earlier.
On Wednesday, the Trump administration announced it was planning to introduce restrictions on the sale of vapes.
Among the symptoms vape users endure when ill are diarrhea, vomiting, shortness of breath and fevers. Most of those who became sick had reportedly consumed THC products.
Most vape smokers use products containing THC, one of the active chemicals in marijuana, and officials say Vitamin E – a common component of vape juices – could be one of the harmful culprits.
As vaping-linked deaths spark concern around the nation, US Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, called on the country’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take urgent action.
In a Twitter post, Durbin said that, if inaction persists, he would call for the resignation of Ned Sharpless, the acting FDA commissioner.
“The vaping epidemic has now reached the point where multiple people have died and over 450 have been hospitalised, but @FDACommissioner is sitting on his hands,” Durbin wrote.
“If Dr Sharpless doesn’t take action in the next 10 days, I plan to call for his resignation. Enough is enough.”
On Tuesday, the FDA accused one e-cigarette giant, Juul, of ignoring the law. The FDA said the company targeted teens through an aggressive marketing campaign and issued misleading statements regarding its products.
If Juul does not respond within two weeks, the FDA warned, regulators would take “even more aggressive action” against the company.
In response to TRT World’s inquiry, a Juul Labs spokesperson replied: “We are reviewing the letters and will fully cooperate.”
Many Americans view vaping – in addition to marijuana – as a less harmful alternative to traditional tobacco smoking, according to a July 2018 Gallup poll.
While upwards of eight out of 10 Americans view cigarettes as harmful, the study found, less than half that number viewed vaping as detrimental to one’s health.
The Gallup poll predicted that “the public's perception of vaping as a less harmful alternative to cigarettes may lead to increased usage of vaping”.
According to a researcher at Johns Hopkins, vaping is, in fact, less harmful than cigarettes, but it is not without its own health risks – and it can be just as addictive, especially in cases when nicotine is present in the vape juice.
According to the US surgeon general in 2015, e-cigarette use among high school students increased by 900 percent – and 40 percent of those users had never smoked traditional cigarettes.
In some states, schools have taken measures to combat the popularity of vaping among their students.
In Alabama, Wilson High School administrators have removed the doors from toilet stalls to prevent students from vaping while in the restroom, the local K-OLD 13 reported on Monday.
A preliminary study published on Friday noted that 53 cases—28 in Wisconsin and 25 in Illinois—included previously healthy teens, most of whom were males.
Even as the political row over vaping unfolds in the US, the use of vapes is on the rise around the world.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the number of smokers around the world has risen to more than a billion.
With vaping surging around the globe, WHO has warned that the long-term effects of vaping remain unclear, that products containing nicotine are addictive, and that certain flavours can cause inflammation in the user’s airways.
Meanwhile, the number of vape users increased from seven million in 2011 to around 35 million in 2016, the BBC recently reported.
Euromonitor, a market research group, predicts that the number of adults who vape will hit nearly 55 million by 2021, BBC added.