New Study Reveals Lung Damage Not Caused By Cicotine E-Cigarettes
The serious lung disease known as EVALI or electronic cigarette or e-cigarette lung damage associated with product use is not caused by e-cigarette nicotine, as e-cigarette opponents falsely claim. This is according to a new study published in Drug and Alcohol Review by Colin Mendelsohn, Ph.D. EVALI is a serious medical condition in which a person's lungs are damaged by a substance that causes difficulty breathing, shortness of breath and chest pain.
Dr. Colin Mendelsohn, one of Australia's leading smoking cessation experts and founding president of the Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association (ATHRA), cited an outbreak of lung injury and death related to e-cigarette smoking in the United States in mid-2019 to early 2020.
He shared that 14 percent of cases reported nicotine vaping only - findings that correlate with the claim that nicotine products cause related lung injury.
In February 2020, Dr. Mendelsohn said, the epidemic in the United States resulted in 2,807 hospitalizations and deaths from the condition. The aforementioned cases primarily affected people who modified e-cigarette devices or used black-market modified e-cigarette oils.
In an investigation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that many patients with lung injury used multiple tobacco and marijuana products. the CDC has identified vitamin E acetate as a chemical of concern for EVALI patients, and it was found in lung fluid samples from all patients examined by the CDC.
According to Dr. Mendelsohn, EVALI is misleading because it implies that all e-cigarette products cause the disease and that the only identified cause is THC products contaminated with vitamin E acetate.
"Incredibly, nicotine e-cigarette products are thought to play a role in EVALI. There have been no confirmed cases of EVALI due to nicotine smoking before or after the outbreak," Dr. Mendelssohn said. He added that the outbreak of lung damage was caused by e-cigarettes contaminated with vitamin E acetates in black market THC oil.
The report also shared that the CDC has withdrawn its warning on the issue of commercial nicotine e-cigarettes after the evidence against it strengthened.
Given the inherent potential for e-cigarettes to cause associated lung damage, some 75 multidisciplinary experts requested that the CDC change the name of the disease because it was misleading and incorrectly implied that all e-cigarette devices caused the disease, when the only identified cause was contamination of THC e-cigarette products with vitamin E acetate.
Meanwhile, in the UK, the UK Department of Public Health stated in 2019 that EVALI is not a problem associated with the long-term use of regulated nicotine e-cigarette products. Due in part to the rapid public health response, public awareness of the risks associated with the use of e-cigarettes or e-cigarette products containing THC has increased.
However, the CDC emphasizes that the evidence is insufficient to rule out the possibility that other chemicals may play a role in cases of EVALI, which may include chemicals from products with or without THC. Data from studies of e-cigarette products have revealed thousands of chemical components, most of which have not been identified.
Dr. Mendelsohn's research further points out that misinformation about e-cigarettes and EVALI can have deadly effects. He emphasizes the need to correct persistent misconceptions about the causes of EVALI, as misinformation can cause public alarm and damage public health, not only in Australia but also in the United States.
Medical experts and public health regulators around the world have found that e-cigarettes are the most popular aid to quitting or reducing smoking, and therefore can help smokers move to better alternatives.
In fact, the public health benefits provided by e-cigarettes have been recognized by the UK National Health Service and the New Zealand Ministry of Health as they have embraced the use of e-cigarettes to help smokers quit.
The UK government has expressed concern that false fears about e-cigarettes are preventing smokers from picking them up to quit. Similarly, the New Zealand Ministry of Health has launched a public awareness campaign to dispel misconceptions about e-cigarettes in order to encourage smokers to make the switch as part of the Smokefree 2025 goal.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised people who use e-cigarettes to quit smoking to weigh the benefits and risks and to avoid e-cigarettes containing THC, any form of modified e-cigarette device, or the addition of any substance manufacturer that is not part of a U.S. government program.
As public health authorities and the public increasingly embrace the science behind them and support their adoption through a thoughtful and balanced regulatory framework, e-cigarettes will continue to play a critical role in helping smokers around the world to quit.