The first ever documented case of a new form of damage to the lungs from vaping products has been reported in an article published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
A patient presented with a new type of vaping-related injury that is similar to “popcorn lung,” a condition seen in workers exposed to the chemical flavouring diacetyl, an ingredient used in microwave popcorn. If inhaled, the chemical causes bronchiolitis, which is characterized by the small airways of the lungs becoming inflamed and obstructed. The doctors from Lawson Health Research Institute in London, Ontario, and University Health Network (UHN) in Toronto report on the case of life-threatening bronchiolitis. The article describes a previously healthy 17-year-old male who initially presented for care after a week of persistent and intractable cough and was eventually hospitalized and put on life support. After ruling out other causes, the authors suspected flavoured e-liquids as the cause. The youth’s family reported that he vaped daily using a variety of flavoured cartridges and used tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) regularly.
The CMAJ case study provides detailed medical information on the extent and type of injury as well as treatment, although the Middlesex-London Health Unit reported on the youth’s condition earlier this fall to extend an early warning of the risks of vaping.
The authors referred the patient to a lung transplant centre for further evaluation and reported the case to authorities (Government of Canada’s consumer product incident report system) as an adverse reaction to a consumer product, e-cigarettes. They also alerted Health Canada for further investigation.
The youth narrowly avoided the need for a double lung transplant, but now has evidence of chronic damage to his airways. He is still recovering from his lengthy stay in the intensive care unit, and is abstaining from e-cigarettes, marijuana and tobacco.
Emerging reports indicate that e-cigarettes are causing a variety of lung illnesses and injuries. According to a 2017 report, e-cigarettes are the most commonly used nicotine products among Canadian youth, with an estimated 272,000 Canadians aged 15 to 24 years reporting e-cigarette use within the last 30 days.