Could it be the beginning of the end for the e-cigarette craze? Maybe: Federal health officials announced in September 2019 that they were moving to ban the sale of non-tobacco-flavored flavored liquids used in e-cigarettes, which have been blamed for getting millions of teenagers and young adults to use e-cigs (known as vaping) and, moreover, to become addicted to nicotine. The ban includes not only fruit flavors but also popular mint and menthol, which e-cig makers have argued should not be considered flavors.
The announcement came as the FDA, CDC, and state health agencies investigated an outbreak of severe lung illnesses across the country following the use of e-cigarette products. The CDC reported in early October that the number of cases had reached 1,080 in 48 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands, with 18 confirmed deaths. Seventy percent of those who've become ill are male, and 80 percent are under age 35. Sixteen percent are younger than 18.
Update 10/11/19: The CDC has increased the case number to 1,299 in 49 states, with 26 deaths. For ongoing updates, see the CDC's web page on the outbreak.
In many of the cases, patients acknowledged recent use of vaping products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis), often purchased illicitly. Many of the samples tested as part of the investigation were found to contain THC along with vitamin E acetate, an oil derived from vitamin E that is used in some skin products and dietary supplements. The effects of inhaling the vitamin E ingredient aren’t known, but the findings prompted both the FDA and the CDC to advise consumers to avoid vaping products that contain THC in particular. The FDA said it was also testing samples for the presence of other contaminants that could injure the lungs, including pesticides, opioids, poisons, heavy metals, and toxins.
Aside from the lung problems under investigation, e-cigarettes are known to increase cardiovascular risk. The state of Michigan and city of San Francisco have already banned the sale of flavored e-cigarettes.
Bottom line: Avoid vaping (anything) and encourage others to do the same. If you are trying to stop smoking, there are better methods, plus the evidence shows that e-cigarettes actually make it less likely that smokers will kick the habit. Options include nicotine patches, gum, and counseling.
- The Burning Truth About E-Cigarettes
- Why Tobacco Companies Love E-Cigs
- More U.S. Teens Using E-Cigarettes, Marijuana
- More Risks from E-Cigarettes
- Vaping Plus Smoking Equals Increased Heart Risk
Originally published September 27, 2019. Updated October 11, 2019.