In a major pre-holiday news dump, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and Facebook all released new vaping updates.
The CDC on Friday said they can “confirm a decline” in emergency room visits related to e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury, otherwise known as EVALI. As of December 17, the CDC confirmed 2,506 cases vape-related lung illnesses from people living in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 2 U.S. territories, and 54 deaths have been confirmed in 27 states.
The CDC on Friday released findings that continue to point to Vitamin E acetate as a main culprit of vaping related illnesses, along with new evidence showing that these illnesses peaked in September.
Also on Friday, the Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Administration announced that, as part of Operation Vapor Lock, the agencies seized 44 website domains that were advertising the sale of unregulated, illicit vaping products, some containing THC.
“In the wake of recent injuries and deaths caused by vaping products, these seizures send a message to anyone seeking to capitalize on this dangerous trend,” Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon said in a statement. “DEA will continue to work in lockstep with FDA and other federal, state, and local partners to use all our authorities to pursue anyone that violates our laws and puts Americans in harm’s way.”
The DEA emphasized the need to “fully understand” the root causes of vaping lung illnesses.
“It is a federal crime to advertise the sale of illicit THC vaping cartridges online, and by seizing these websites today, we are able to focus on other online and in-person sources of illegal and potentially dangerous vaping products,” FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn said in a statement. “As more information comes to light in this complex and evolving investigation, we remain committed to taking further appropriate actions with our federal, state and local partners.”
The CDC released four reports Friday in their Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report and the New England Journal of Medicine. Reports of EVALI “rose sharply” in June and peaked in September, a NEJM report found, however, emergency room visits are still higher today than when the vaping illness outbreak started.
NEJM findings released Friday also highlight the ongoing “link” between Vitamin E acetate, a thickener sometimes used in vape oil products, and reports of EVALI. CDC researchers again examined bronchoalveolar lavage fluid from more patients living in 16 different states and compared the fluids of EVALI patients to those of healthy people. Vitamin E acetate was found in the lung fluid from 48 of 51 EVALI patients. Vitamin E acetate was absent in every single lung fluid sample from healthy people.
Another study released by the CDC’s MMWR looked at EVALI patients who were rehospitalized. As of December 10, 2,409 EVALI cases have been reported to the CDC, and of those, 31 patients were hospitalized and seven died after hospital discharge. The CDC found that those EVALI patients who needed to be hospitalized again typically had other conditions like heart disease, a chronic respiratory illness, or diabetes. And, age could play a factor in recovery; of those who died after discharge, they were more likely to be 50-plus years old.
“It is important that physicians and clinical providers work with EVALI patients to ensure follow-up care within two days,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a statement on Friday. “A follow-up visit with a primary care physician is especially important for EVALI patients with underlying chronic conditions. Ensuring this timely medical attention and monitoring can save lives.”
You’re likely to see less vaping on Facebook and Instagram, too. This week, Facebook announced a policy update to include “clearer rules” on influencers being paid to promote goods like vaping, tobacco, alcohol and diet supplements.
“Branded content that promotes goods such as vaping, tobacco products and weapons will not be allowed. Our advertising policies have long prohibited the advertisement of these products, and we will begin enforcement on this in the coming weeks,” Instagram announced.