Clinicians are being urged to report any cases potentially involving vaping-related illnesses to the Arkansas Department of Health. Nationwide, 450 possible cases of vaping-induced illnesses are being investigated, including six deaths, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Arkansas, the ADH says as of Thursday there are eight possible cases. Two have been confirmed, two are probable and four are under investigation.
The CDC and the Food and Drug Administration are now involved in a multi-state investigation to learn if there is a link between e-cigarette products and lung disease. In recent weeks, a few Arkansas clinicians have raised concerns to the ADH.
Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr. Appathurai Balamurugan says Arkansas clinicians should pay attention to respiratory symptoms that are present in their patients. These symptoms include shortness of breath and changes in color that result from patients not being able to hold their breath. If patients do not have an underlying heart or lung disease, doctors should ask if patients have used e-cigarettes products in the last 90 days.
Balamurugan says most of the possible cases that have been reported involved teenagers and young adults. Pulmonary illnesses are not usually common in young people, which is why these symptoms are so concerning.
In Arkansas, Dr. Balamurugan says the prevalence of young adults vaping has increased rapidly. He says they are the ones who will face the brunt of these vaping-related illnesses. In 2010, Balamurugan says that less than 5% of young adults regularly used e-cigarette products. Now, over 20% of young adults use e-cigarette products nationally. He says adults are not using these products as regularly as the younger generation.
The department says clinicians need to be aware that addictive vaping and e-cigarettes can cause injury to the lungs of their patients.
"Vaping has nicotine, which is an addictive substance," Dr. Balamurugan explained. "One pod of an e-cigarette can contain the nicotine content of up to 20 cigarettes. We know from studies that while it may not contain all the 100 plus harmful ingredients which can cause cancer and lung disease, it does have harmful elements."
Free market testing has shown that e-cigarettes contain harmful ingredients that can cause popcorn lung disease. It has formaldehyde, which is used to preserve dead bodies and acetone, which is like paint thinner. These studies have proven that ingredients present in e-cigarettes can cause damage to the lungs and developing brains.
Every Wednesday, the CDC, the FDA, and different state health departments have a standing call to discuss the ongoing outbreak of pulmonary illnesses. The CDC is in the process of setting up a chemistry center to test the products related to e-cigarettes and vaping devices.
Any concerned Arkansas citizens can call the 1-800-quit-now if they want help with a tobacco or e-cigarette addiction. They can also call their medical provider if they have any concerning respiratory symptoms.