This Week's Poll


New findings
Vaping-related lung disease resembles chemical burns on lungs

By Tami Stevenson

The outbreak of vaping related lung disease, which they are now using the acronym EVALI – that is E-V-A-L-I to describe it, began in the spring of this year and has progressed since then.

Nationally there are 1,604 cases as of last week with 34 deaths, according to a release from Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on October 25. In Florida there are 70 reported cases and one death.

The Florida Surgeon General Doctor Scott Rivkees spoke to the House Business and Professions Subcommittee last week about the crisis.

With a seemingly endless unregulated and un-tested array of flavorings and other additives, many vaping products contain toxic chemicals and heavy metals, according to the Department of Health. Rivkees explained the vaping products produce an aerosol, not tobacco smoke, and presented the committee with images of victims’ lungs showing chemical burns. They say they are still searching for the culprit and cannot pin down any one ingredient.

He added that nicotine is not the primary reason victims have smoking related lung disease, but it is the primary reason individuals smoke. He said they are working very closely with the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They are reporting cases as they occur to them and are participating in the toxicological analyses.

The age range of people vaping in Florida is middle school age children to 72 years with an average age of 24. Of those numbers, 68 percent are male and 8 percent are minors. Nationally, however, 16 percent that are diagnosed with vaping induced lung diseases are minors.

He presented graphs that showed 5.9 percent of Florida’s population vape. Nationally approximately 4.9 percent of middle school students vape and 20.8 percent of high school students vape. Data from the Department of Health show Florida has 25.6 percent of total students vaping and 2.5 percent smoking cigarettes.

Vaping devices can resemble USB drives, pens and other devices, Rivkee said, making easy access for minors.

They recommend people do not buy any vaping products that contain THC (especially off the street) as 78 percent of the lung disease cases involved vaping products that contained THC and none of the vaping products should be modified by adding flavorings or other substances to them.
He pointed out that currently no vaping product has been approved by the FDA for therapeutic use or is authorized for marketing by the FDA.

During the October 25 update by the CDC, Doctor Anne Schuchat, Principle Deputy Director of the CDC, said, “This past Tuesday, a report in the MMWR from Utah’s investigation found that most patients there had gotten THC-containing vaping products from informal sources or online, rather than from brick and mortar stores or dispensaries.  The Utah data are fairly consistent with the pattern of product use described in the Illinois and Wisconsin investigations where about 89 percent of patients reported getting THC-containing products from friends, family, illicit dealers, or off the street.  Although these new data continue to point to THC exposures as important, at this time FDA and CDC have not identified a single specific compound, substance, product or brand that is causing these lung injuries.  And it may be that there is more than one cause of the lung injuries in this outbreak.  As such, we recommend that you do not use e-cigarette, or vaping, products that contain THC.  And since the specific compounds or ingredients causing lung injury are not yet known, the only way to be sure that you are not at risk is to consider refraining from the use of all e-cigarette, or vaping, products while our investigation continues.” She added, that if people continue to use e-cigarette, or vaping products, they should carefully monitor themselves for symptoms and see a healthcare provider immediately if symptoms develop. 

She added that CDC’s goal and priority are to find out what is causing this outbreak and to provide the American public with data-driven and science-based recommendations.  They will continue to work 24/7 to find the answers to this outbreak.  And they are now intensifying the laboratory testing that is occurring as part of this investigation, in collaboration with the FDA and state and local public health agencies.