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Vaping and vaping-associated lung illness

Vaping products like electronic cigarettes have recently been linked to an outbreak of severe lung illnesses.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began reporting on vaping-related illnesses in August 2019. A growing number of cases of vaping associated lung illness have now been reported in the U.S., and a small number of confirmed cases have also been reported in Canada. Researchers and health officials are studying the outbreak; however, the specific products, substances, and chemicals causing lung illness in these cases have not been identified.

B.C. is monitoring the situation closely and working to identify possible cases in the province. It is now mandatory for health care providers to report possible cases to their Regional Health Authority

Vaping-related illnesses

People who use vaping products should watch for symptoms commonly reported by patients experiencing vaping-related illness such as:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea or vomiting
Patients experiencing severe vaping associated lung illness sometimes required intensive care treatment, and some cases have been fatal. Most patients have been under the age of 35, and many have been under 18. Most patients have reported using products containing THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, an active ingredient in cannabis), and in particular products acquired through informal sources, such as friends, family and illicit dealers.

Information about using vaping products

Vaping is not without risk and the potential long-term effects of vaping remain unknown. It exposes users to chemicals that can cause lung damage.

For smokers, vaping is less harmful than cigarettes. Non-smokers, people who are pregnant, and young people should not vape.

British Columbians are reminded that the purchase of vaping products produced outside the legal market may create additional risk as these products are unregulated and potentially unsafe and thereby pose a risk to health and safety. People who vape should also avoid product modifications and the use of additives.

Vaping products and how they work

Vaping involves inhaling aerosol or vapour produced by devices like electronic cigarettes. These devices heat liquid into an aerosol that the user inhales into the mouth and lungs, where it is absorbed into the bloodstream. Some products contain nicotine, which is highly addictive, and others may contain cannabis. Further information on vaping is available at HealthLinkBC

For health care professionals

Health care professionals should ask patients about their use of e-cigarette products and dabbing (breathing in very hot vapours from heating cannabis concentrates) if they have respiratory symptoms. 

It is now mandatory for health care providers to report possible cases to the Regional Health Authority of the patient. Guidance on clinical management is available from the US CDC.

Monitoring of vaping-related illnesses 

B.C. is working closely with Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada and other provinces and territories to identify possible cases of severe pulmonary illness related to vaping or the use of e-cigarettes.

The province has made it mandatory to report incidences of people with severe pulmonary disease associated with vaping if there is no evidence of plausible alternative diagnoses.

Vaping and youth

Children and youth should not use vaping products, with or without nicotine or THC. Youth are particularly susceptible to the negative effects of nicotine which can impact brain development, memory and concentration. The use of nicotine vaping may increase the risk that they go on to use other tobacco products. It is illegal to sell vaping products to people under the age of 19 in BC. 

SOURCE: Vaping and vaping-associated lung illness ( )
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