E-cigarettes and other devices that facilitate vaping can cause permanent, irreversible damage to lung tissue. As of January 2020, a total of 2,602 hospitalizations and 52 fatalities associated with the use of e-cigarettes were recorded in the United States. Individuals who use these devices put themselves at considerable risk of injury and should cease using them immediately.
EVALI in Illinois
E-Cigarette Vaping Associated Lung Injury, or EVALI, is a growing problem in Illinois, Currently, there are 214 cases and five fatalities associated with this acquired injury in the state. This is roughly 10% of all cases recorded in the country. For this reason, the state legislature and the American Lung Association are working together to include e-cigarettes within the Smoke Free Illinois Act.
This legislation would ban the use of e-cigarettes and other vaping devices in public similarly to the restrictions currently placed on traditional tobacco products. Manufacturing companies have argued for years that the vapor emitted by e-cigarettes was nothing but water; however, further investigation has revealed that the aerosols contain a mix of nicotine and volatile compounds that can injure anyone who breathes them.
The severity of EVALI can vary from patient to patient. Some will experience minor symptoms including dizziness and nausea, while others may experience shortness of breath and chemical burns within the lungs. While most symptoms will abate when the user ceases use of the device, chemical burns cause permanent scarring of the lung tissue.
The Rapid Growth of E-Cigarettes
E-cigarettes are marketed as safer, healthier alternatives to cigarettes, pipes, and cigars. However, the e-cigarette industry is very loosely regulated, and has been since the invention of the devices in the mid-2000s. While previous concerns focussed on the lithium-ion batteries that could explode, current focus is on the ingredients used within the vaping liquids contained within the cartridges. Many of these contain a blend of ingredients that are nothing less than toxic. In particular, the CDC is concerned with Vitamin E acetate which is not toxic when eaten in foods, but can be toxic when introduced to respiratory tissues.
The rapid growth of the e-cigarette industry, coupled with the fact that injuries are only starting to emerge means that there is significant potential for an explosion of EVALI related cases in Illinois. Individuals using these devices should cease doing so immediately and monitor their health for any signs of lung damage.