Va­p­ing-re­lated lung ill­nesses un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY SHEN WU TAN

Makers of e-cig­a­rettes are get­ting hit with city, state and fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tions of va­p­ing-re­lated lung ill­nesses, re­ported cases of seizures and in­dus­try marketing prac­tices.

Mil­wau­kee health of­fi­cials are urg­ing res­i­dents to stop us­ing e-cig­a­rette prod­ucts, cit­ing 16 peo­ple in Wis­con­sin who have been hos­pi­tal­ized with se­vere chem­i­cal lung in­flam­ma­tion. About 200 such cases mostly in­volv­ing young vapers have been re­ported na­tion­wide.

“I urge res­i­dents pay close at­ten­tion to the poor health effects from us­ing these prod­ucts,” said Mil­wau­kee Al­der­man Michael Mur­phy, who co-chairs the City-County Heroin, Opi­oid and Co­caine Task Force.

Wis­con­sin joined Vir­ginia and Mary­land to re­port con­firmed cases of lung ill­ness as­so­ci­ated with va­p­ing. Pa­tients re­ported hav­ing vaped in the weeks and months leading to hos­pi­tal­iza­tion, with some ad­mit­ting to us­ing prod­ucts containing THC, the psy­choac­tive in­gre­di­ent in mar­i­juana.

Mean­while, Bloomberg re­ported a hand­ful of peo­ple who had used de­vices from Juul, a leading e-cig­a­rette com­pany, trig­gered an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by fed­eral health of­fi­cials into whether e-cig­a­rettes cause seizures.

The Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion is in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether e-cig­a­rettes are linked to seizures or other neu­ro­log­i­cal is­sues such as faint­ing or tremors.

From 2010 to 2019, the agency has re­ceived 127 re­ports from e-cig­a­rette users who said they had seizures or tremors or fainted af­ter va­p­ing. An FDA re­view of ad­verse event re­ports on prod­ucts used by e-cig­a­rette users iden­ti­fied a to­tal of 35 re­ported cases of seizures fol­low­ing va­p­ing.

A Juul spokesper­son said the com­pany is aware of the ini­tial re­port that pin­pointed cases tied to va­p­ing prod­ucts, some of which ref­er­enced the com­pany’s prod­ucts.

“While the FDA has not reached out to us about this is­sue, we will vig­i­lantly mon­i­tor for any ev­i­dence of po­ten­tial safety is­sues and work co­op­er­a­tively as we con­tinue to com­bat youth us­age and elim­i­nate cig­a­rettes, the num­ber one cause of pre­ventable death in the world,” the spokesper­son said.

The FDA said it can­not iden­tify a spe­cific brand or sub-brand of e-cig­a­rettes with re­gard to re­ported seizures and other neu­ro­log­i­cal prob­lems.

But an Oc­to­ber email to former FDA Com­mis­sioner Scott Got­tlieb from Mitch Zeller, direc­tor of the FDA’s Cen­ter for To­bacco Prod­ucts, said: “No proof of causal­ity, but at a min­i­mum, an as­so­ci­a­tion with Juul,” re­ported Bloomberg, which re­ceived the agency’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions through a public records re­quest.

Juul’s marketing prac­tices also are be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by the Fed­eral Trade Com­mis­sion, the Wall Street Jour­nal re­ported.

The FTC would not con­firm or deny the ex­is­tence of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion to The Wash­ing­ton Times, not­ing that its in­ves­ti­ga­tions are not public.

Gre­gory Con­ley, pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can Va­p­ing As­so­ci­a­tion, said he wel­comes a “fair-minded” FTC in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Juul’s marketing strate­gies.

“Juul may have been naive when it be­gan marketing the prod­uct, but the com­pany never in­tended to at­tract mi­nors to its prod­uct,” Mr. Con­ley said. “What truly hap­pened to Juul is ac­tu­ally a phe­nom­e­non that the FTC has not yet re­ally con­sid­ered — a prod­uct go­ing ‘vi­ral’ not through an ef­fort by a par­tic­u­lar com­pany, but solely through so­cial me­dia memes and videos.”

Juul said it would not com­ment on any spe­cific in­ves­ti­ga­tion, but said it fully co­op­er­ates and is trans­par­ent with any gov­ern­ment agency or reg­u­la­tor.

The com­pany as­serts it never has mar­keted its prod­ucts to youth.

“Our ear­li­est marketing cam­paign in 2015 was in­tended for adults in the 25-34 year-old de­mo­graphic and lasted for six months. If one views the sales and rev­enue data, there is no ev­i­dence that it drove use, youth or otherwise,” Juul said. “None­the­less, we re­gret that the cam­paign was ex­e­cuted in a way that was per­ceived as ap­peal­ing to mi­nors.”

The e-cig­a­rette maker said it changed its ad­ver­tis­ing ap­proach to make sure there is no mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion about the com­pany’s in­tended cus­tomers: adult smok­ers 35 years or older.

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