December 16, 2021

Michigan Poison and Drug Information Center warns of false health claims related to vaping products

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a consumer warning regarding unproven health benefit claims related to the use of vaping products. The Michigan Poison and Drug Information Center at the Wayne State University School of Medicine notes that vaping products marketed with claims to help treat cancer, improve mental health, or help with treatment for chronic respiratory conditions are fraudulent.

Vaping devices and e-cigarettes are electronic nicotine delivery systems used to heat and vaporize liquids so vapors can be inhaled. The liquids used to deliver nicotine or tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana, are of significant concern. E-liquids may contain propylene glycol, vegetable oil, vitamin E acetate and a multitude of other potentially harmful ingredients. Nicotine content in these products is concerning as e-liquids may contain higher amounts of nicotine than advertised on labels.

Inhaling nicotine and other chemicals in vaporized e-liquids can damage the respiratory system. Diacetyl, which is used to flavor e-liquids, has been associated with serious lung injuries.

Individuals who vape are at risk for significant adverse health effects. Symptoms may develop over a short period and may include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, chest pain and shortness of breath. Users who develop any of these symptoms are at risk for, or may already have developed, electronic vaping-associated lung injury, or EVALI, and should seek medical care immediately. Severe lung injuries have occurred in teenagers and young adults with the use of vaping devices and liquids. Vitamin E acetate has been implicated in the development of EVALI. In 2019, the CDC conducted a study on 29 patients with EVALI across 10 states. Vitamin E acetate was detected in all 29 samples. Due to lack of regulations surrounding vaping products, it is difficult to even determine what products may be responsible for resulting harm.

This year, the Michigan Poison and Drug Information Center has received 231 calls regarding exposure to e-cigarettes and other vaping-related exposures. This is an increase from the 156 calls the previous year.

The National Youth Tobacco Survey, conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion in 2021, concluded that use of e-cigarettes among youth, specifically middle and high school students, remains high. More than 2 million adolescents in the U.S. use e-cigarettes and most use flavored e-cigarette products. The survey results determined 43.6% of high school students and 17.2% of middle school students used the products for at least 20 days each month.

The U.S. Surgeon General has determined that use of e-cigarettes is an epidemic among youth. Nicotine use in teens and young adults can cause long-term health effects. Nicotine addiction is associated with mood disorders, impulse control issues and impaired learning.

In 2018, more than 14 million middle and high school students had seen e-cigarette advertising in stores, on the Internet, and via television, movies and magazines. Often e-liquids are flavored like candy, fruit, chocolate and other sweets, and are packaged in bright colors and appealing designs. Approximately 68% of high school students who use e-cigarettes use products with added flavors.

In February 2020, the FDA implemented a partial ban on the sale of flavored tobacco and nicotine-containing products, limiting flavors to menthol and tobacco. The ban does not extend to open-tank vaping systems and restrictions vary by state.

If you have questions regarding the health risks and false claims related to e-cigarettes and vaping liquid products, contact your health care professional or call the Michigan Poison and Drug Information Center at the Wayne State University School of Medicine at 1-800-222-1222.

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