When electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) first appeared in Canada a decade ago, many healthcare professionals expressed major concerns about their potential harmful effects. They called for strict regulation and more research to ensure that Canadians weren’t falling into a health hazard trap – but this did not materialize.
Fast-forward to May 2018 and the federal government officially legalized e-cigarettes containing nicotine, and, in October 2019, the sale of cannabis-containing e-cigarettes was given the green light. Throughout this legalization process, healthcare professionals continued to warn about suspect respiratory problems caused by e-cigarette usage, or vaping.
These warnings around how e-cigarettes could harm users really came to life in summer 2019, with widespread recognition of a North American epidemic of e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury (EVALI). According to the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), the EVALI “epidemic is ongoing, with more than 1,800 patients having been ill – most of them critically – and at least 37 having died. Most patients were younger than 35 years, and 14% were under the age of 18.”
The CMAJ (Vol. 191, Issue 48) gives a detailed report of a Canadian teenager who “developed a unique pattern of severe respiratory illness” which was rather like “severe, acute bronchiolitis” after vaping daily for five months. The condition was described by the teen’s doctors as very similar to “popcorn lung” – a rare lung disease previously seen in workers in the early 2000s who were exposed to the chemical flavouring diacetyl as they packaged microwave popcorn.
Bethan Moorcraft – Insurance Business Canada – December 11, 2019.