This was awfully sudden.  A short while ago we were reading about potential health issues related to electronic smoking. Now, seemingly overnight, the news is full of stories of what appears to be a new disease – or possibly diseases.

What triggered it? Nearly 200 new cases just since June, involving severe injury to the lungs, reported by physicians and health officials from 22 states. A common denominator: electronic smoking. The CDC will investigate. If experience holds, some of the first group of cases will be found to have other causes. Meanwhile, more new cases will be identified.

Turns out this phenomenon isn’t entirely new. There were case reports beginning in 2015, according to an interview with one physician in West Virginia.

What we know at this early juncture:

  1. A number of potential causes have been considered. One example: diacetyls, a name from the popcorn flavoring scare of a few years back. Many vape cartridges are flavored to appeal to younger users as well as soften some of the irritation.
  2. It’s common to use vape devices with cannabis and other substances. In the absence of quality control, that could be a source of contamination.
  3. Online purchases may help explain the wide distribution of cases, geographically speaking. Illinois currently leads with 22 reported, including what appears to be the first fatality. But other states are closing the gap.
  4. The vaping industry has leapt to the defense: a trade association has issued a statement condemning the media for creating unnecessary panic about the safety of their products and electronic smoking in general. It’s self-serving, which is what we’d expect from a trade group worried about future sales. Of course we’re also now hearing about massive awards and settlements against Big Pharma, based on the industry’s reprehensible behavior in the run-up to the current drug epidemic (and beyond). Also, we know of strong financial links between Big Tobacco and the electronic smoking industry. As the marketing consultants say, “it’s not a good look.”

More developments yet to come, no doubt. Meanwhile, if you’ve been vaping, you might want to think about alternatives. Patches, gum, hypnosis, etc.

Maybe even quitting smoking altogether.