First vape death as concerns grow about safety of e-cigarettes
A patient who contracted lung disease after vaping has died, health officials have said.
The death in the US is believed to be the first in the world and has raised questions about the safety of vaping – which the UK government is promoting as an alternative to traditional cigarettes.
The person who died has not been named but lived in the state of Illinois and was aged between 17 and 38.
It comes amid an outbreak of lung disease across the US that officials have linked to the use of e-cigarettes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said nearly 200 people have contracted severe respiratory illnesses after vaping.
All of those affected have been teenagers or adults who had used an electronic cigarette or some other kind of vaping device.
Doctors said their illnesses resembled an inhalation injury with the lungs reacting to a caustic substance.
All the cases have been recorded since late June.
CDC director Robert Redfield said: ‘This tragic death in Illinois reinforces the serious risks associated with e-cigarette products.
‘Vaping exposes users to many different substances for which we have little information about related harms – including flavourings, nicotine, cannabinoids and solvents.’
Electronic cigarettes have been described as a less dangerous alternative to regular cigarettes and Public Health England maintain they are a highly effective tool to help people quit smoking.
However, academics in the UK have said much more research is needed and there needs to be better regulation.
There are concerns about the amount of young people taking up vaping because the products still contain highly-addictive nicotine.
Some vaping products have also been found to contain other potentially harmful substances and a number of the flavours, such as cinnamon, vanilla and cherry, produce a toxic reaction.
The UK is currently bound by EU regulations on the amount of nicotine in an e-cigarette and the levels in the US are much higher.
Dr Aaron Scott, from the University of Birmingham, said this could account for the higher number of health problems so far in the US.
He recently published a paper showing that vaporised e-liquid fluid has a similar effect on the lungs and body as seen in regular smokers.
According to this research, vaping is cytotoxic and pro-inflammatory.
He told Metro.co.uk that there needed to be more-long term studies and better regulation before it could be promoted as a better alternative to traditional cigarettes.
Dr Scott said: ‘We only have evidence for short-term and in the short-term it’s definitely harmful. I think we should be more cautious.
‘The potential for lung disease down the line is still there and we need to recognise that rather than bury our heads in the sand by only focusing on the benefits and the way it helps people give up smoking.’
Research shows around 5% of the British public use e-cigarettes but researchers say they believe the real figure is much higher.
Vaping products are not safe for children, young adults or pregnant women but they are still freely available to buy in shops.
Dr Scott added: ‘You can go into a pound store anywhere in the country and buy e-cigarette liquid for £1.
‘Often the devices will be at the end of a supermarket aisle whereas cigarettes are in a locked area.
‘There is very little regulation and it is so accessible for young people to get.’
A number of countries are now banning the sale of e-cigarettes, including Australia and Japan.
The state of San Francisco has become the first major city to ban the sale of e-cigarettes.
The president of the American Vaping Association, Gregory Conley, said in a statement on Thursday that he was ‘confident’ the illnesses were being caused by devices containing cannabis or other synthetic drugs, not nicotine.
At least two people have previously died in the US after their e-cigarette exploded in their face.
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