'Avoiding e-cigarettes is a must': Local physician advises against vaping after multiple deaths in U.S.

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin on Monday called on the head of the FDA to take immediate steps to regulate e-cigs or resign.

Fred Bodimer
September 10, 2019 - 5:25 pm
vaping e-cigarettes
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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) — There are now at least six deaths in the United States from a vaping-related illness.  The latest one in Kansas — where health officials confirm the state's first death associated with a serious lung illness possibly tied to vaping or e-cigarettes.

"It's kind of the Wild West out there," said Dr. Fred Buckhold, a SLU Care general internist at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital.  "The chemicals and agents in e-cigarettes are unknown. There is no consistency in how e-cigarettes are manufactured, and then you add the flavorings that may have more solvents and chemicals that could cause injury to the lung.  It's just unknown — and so it's kind of the devil we don't know. Now I think we are starting to see the results of this."

The American Medical Association is urging Americans to stop vaping or using e-cigarettes of any sort until they get a better handle on the cause of the more than 450 lung illnesses related to the product. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also urged people to consider not vaping as it investigates these illnesses and deaths linked to e-cigarettes.

"I think avoiding e-cigarettes is a must," Dr. Buckhold tells KMOX. "If there is a nicotine dependence, there are other treatments that are evidence-based and proven. Some require a prescription from a physician — and there's not a physician in this world that would not be more than happy to talk about tobacco cessation and getting you to cease smoking cigarettes."

"I would never counsel that as the way to quit smoking.  I wouldn't say I'd prefer somebody to smoke cigarettes over doing e-cigarettes," said Dr. Buckhold. "They both have dangers — and the dangers for cigarettes at least are known. The dangers for e-cigarettes may be even more than regular cigarettes. It's hard to say."

According to Dr. Buckhold, "a lot of times when you have something new out there — the same goes with medications — it just takes time to see what the downstream effects are and to start to see the impact of that.   And I think we are starting to see that now -- and kudos to the states that are starting to respond to that realizing it is a health emergency."

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin on Monday called on the head of the FDA to take immediate steps to regulate e-cigs or resign.

"It is a deadly device," said Durbin. "1 out of 5 children in high school today are vaping and using e-cigarettes. That's 20%.  And 30% of adults. This is a kid's toy, make no mistake about it, no matter what Juul tells you — 'Oh we don't want to sell to kids.' Come on. Get real. We know what's happening and it's deadly."

"Can one really say with a straight face that e-cig flavors like gummi bear or unicorn milk are meant for 50-year-old chain smokers to stop smoking cigarettes? No, those flavors are for kids," said Durbin.

"We need to have the Surgeon General or someone at the highest level of the Trump Administration to send a letter to every school principal in America and tell them the dangers of vaping," implored Sen. Durbin.

In a statement, Juul said that it takes product safety very seriously and that it makes sure to include pertinent warnings on all of its products.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Tuesday told CBS This Morning that his non-profit — Bloomberg Philanthropies — is pledging $160 million to fund a new program aimed at ending vaping among teens.  The billionaire philanthropist's primary goal is to ban all flavored cigarettes, considered the main driver for teen use.  He tells CBS banning flavors could reduce the practice among young people by a third.

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