To vape or not to vape: Answers on the national outbreak


Stay safe by avoiding vape products altogether

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — In the midst of a mysterious national outbreak of vaping-related lung illnesses, it’s important to know all the information surrounding the various vaping devices.

In this photo taken Sunday, March 19, 2017, vaping enthusiasts demonstrate their skills at a vape talent show in northern China’s Tianjin Municipality. A state news agency says China is preparing to impose controls on the content of liquid and additives used in electronic cigarettes amid rising global concern about deaths and illnesses blamed on vaping. (Chinatopix Via AP)

The number and type of vaping products out there increase by the day. There are vape pens with THC and there are vape pens with nicotine — both have been named as potential culprits.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said over 530 people in the U.S. are sick from this lung disease. Oregon alone has 5 reported cases with one death while Washington had 6 reported cases and 2 deaths.

There have been a total of 9 deaths across the county related to the outbreak.

Are e-cigs cause for concern?
Many of the cases are associated with vaping nicotine from products such as Juuls, Juul being the largest e-cig seller in the country. Health officials are especially concerned about Juuls for their long list of flavors that have played a large part in the teen vaping boom. The Associated Press reported that 1 in 8 high school seniors said they vape nicotine daily.

CDC officials worry that Juul uses a type of nicotine salt in their devices. They said doctors believe the salts allow nicotine to “cross the blood brain barrier and lead to potentially more effect on the developing brain in adolescents.”

FILE – In this Sept. 16, 2019 file photo flavored vaping solutions are shown in a window display at a vape and smoke shop, in New York. Michigan has joined New York in banning the sale of flavored e-cigarettes as federal health officials investigate the cause of hundreds of serious breathing illnesses in people who have used vaping devices. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services released details of the ban Wednesday, Sept. 18 and gave retailers, including online sellers, two weeks to comply. The ban includes menthol and mint flavored products. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews File)

Earlier this month, President Trump stated the government will work to ban the thousands of e-cig flavors due to the youth appeal. New York, Michigan and Rhode Island have all already banned flavored vaping products, along with Massachuttes which ordered a 4-month ban.

Some of the patients with the reported lung disease cases in Washington said they had recently vaped with e-cigs.

In the wake of the outbreak — along with plenty of pushback — the CEO of Juul, Kevin Burns, stepped down. The company also suspended all TV, print and digital ads.

It is worth noting, however, that Juuls and e-cigs have been around much longer than this outbreak has.

Worried about weed pens?
Although national concern has centered around e-cigs, most of the reported cases are actually associated with vaping THC. The one death in Oregon is linked to a purchase at a legal cannabis retailer.

Many of the reported cases potentially resulted from buying vape products off the street, except for the Oregon outlier.

A woman smokes out of a vape pen with a marijuana cartridge. (KOIN)

The Oregon Vapor Trade Association said there are at least 200 vaping stores in the state that are selling e-cigarette products with water-soluble ingredients — unlike the oil used in marijuana vaping products. They believe the problem is coming from THC products. In many of the cases of illness, patients have said they vaped using THC oil.

Why are vape users getting sick?
The cause remains unclear.

While health officials have determined these illnesses are linked to vaping — they don’t yet know exactly how. However, the CDC’s Principal Deputy Director Dr. Anne Schuchat is recommending all U.S. consumers avoid all vaping products in the meantime.

The CDC still has questions about both types of devices. Schuchat said “It may not even be the THC or the nicotine. It may be the additives or substances that may be common. It may be the material is not labeled appropriately.”

Symptoms of these diseases include breathing problems, nausea, fatigue, fever and/or weight loss. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms after vaping –whether its nicotine or THC — contact your doctor right away.

For now, stay safe by avoiding vape products altogether.

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