Hundreds of people have been sickened and as many as five are dead after a recent outbreak of vaping-related lung illnesses. Health officials around the country are warning against using e-cigarette products as they scramble to uncover the cause of the illnesses, a task made more difficult by the wide variety of products involved.
“There’s really no standardized consensus on what goes into the product, or how they are being manufactured and regulated,” said Dr. Samuel Kim, associate professor of surgery in thoracic surgery at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “Any manufacturer could put their own substance into these. Nobody really knows exactly what goes into these products and, frankly, the health effects associated with them.”
Kim says vaping itself is often misunderstood. It’s a way of inhaling a heated, aerosolized substance generally containing nicotine or THC in vapor form. The cartridges can often be flavored, which has led to skyrocketing rates of use among young people.
“A lot of time, these products are used by minors or millennials who may not have all the information and there’s a lot of peer pressure involved. Once you’re addicted, it’s very hard get off of it,” Kim said.
Sen. Dick Durbin has called on the Food and Drug Administration’s acting commissioner to take action on the vaping-related illness epidemic within the next 10 days or resign.
“If you continue to refuse to do your job – which is to protect the public health – then it is time to allow someone else to take the helm,” Durbin wrote in a letter.