Department of Health Warns Against Vaping Illegally Obtained Products as Life-Threatening Illnesses Rise
HARRISBURG, Pa. – As cases of e-cigarette-related lung injury have rapidly increased in Pennsylvania and nationwide, Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine is warning all Pennsylvanians of the dangers of vaping, especially illicit drugs like recreational marijuana, especially using unregulated products purchased illegally.
“It is essential that people who use e-cigarettes heed this warning, as their life could be at-risk,” Dr. Levine said. “One of the largest concerns with vaping is that we do not know many of the chemicals and additives contained in the products. While we applaud the Food and Drug Administration’s moves to remove products with flavor additives from the market, initial findings in Pennsylvania and across the country indicate patients were vaping illicit products, primarily recreational marijuana or other unregulated products with THC.”
Pennsylvania has 17 suspected cases and nearly 30 additional cases that are being investigated. Each of these cases has suffered serious lung injuries and have been hospitalized. No cases have been associated with medical marijuana bought at a Pennsylvania dispensary.
“Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program is carefully regulated, with products going through extensive laboratory testing,” Dr. Levine said. “Pennsylvania has a safe, effective and high-quality program designed to help those suffering from any of the 23 serious medical conditions.”
Most of the lung injury cases are male, and the average age is mid-20’s. Vaping e-cigarettes containing nicotine of any kind is extremely dangerous for those with developing brains due to nicotine in the products. Lung injury cases have also been seen in older adults. It is imperative that everyone is aware of the potential harm vaping can do to their health, now and in the future.
Signs and symptoms of a potential lung injury associated with vaping include:
- Shortness of breath;
- Chest pain;
- Nausea or vomiting;
- Fever; or
- Weight loss.
Please see your health care provider if you or a loved one are showing signs or symptoms.
The department is continuing to work with the Poison Control Centers in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Food and Drug Administration as part of this widespread investigation.
Generally, e-cigarettes are not safe for youth, young adults, pregnant women or adults who do not currently use tobacco products. It is also important to remember that e-cigarette aerosol is not harmless “water vapor.” It can contain harmful and potentially harmful substances, including: nicotine and ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs; flavoring such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to a serious lung disease; volatile organic compounds; cancer-causing chemicals and heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead.
Additional information on e-cigarettes, the dangers of vaping, and how to quit smoking can be found on the Department of Health’s website at health.pa.gov.
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