This was awfully sudden.  A short while ago we were reading about potential health issues related to electronic smoking. Now, seemingly overnight, the news is full of stories of what appears to be a new disease – or possibly diseases.

What triggered it? New cases are reported so fast I can’t keep up. NYT says 450 in 33 states, all involving injury to the lungs. A common denominator: electronic smoking. The CDC will investigate. If experience holds, some of the first group of cases will be found to have other causes. Meanwhile, more new cases will be identified.

Turns out this phenomenon isn’t entirely new. There were case reports beginning in 2015, according to an interview with one physician in West Virginia.

What we know at this early juncture:

  1. A number of potential causes have been considered. So far, most of the attention has been focused on the search for possible contaminants.
  2. Vape devices are a favorite for ingesting cannabis and other psychoactive substances, so that’s a strong possible source for contamination. Just reinforces the conclusion that smoking cessation is not (and perhaps never was) the primary attraction for many fans.
  3. Online purchases may help explain the distribution of cases, geographically speaking. No need to buy from local vendors.
  4. The vaping industry has leapt to the defense: a trade association has issued a statement condemning the media for creating unnecessary panic about the safety of their products and electronic smoking in general. It’s self-serving, which is what we’d expect from a trade group worried about future sales. Of course we’re also now hearing about massive awards and settlements against Big Pharma, based on the industry’s reprehensible behavior in the run-up to the current drug epidemic (and beyond). Also, we know of strong financial links between Big Tobacco and the electronic smoking industry. As the marketing consultants say, “it’s not a good look.”

More developments yet to come, no doubt. Meanwhile, if you’ve actually been vaping to quit smoking, you might want to think about alternatives. Patches, gum, hypnosis, etc.

Or maybe just quitting smoking altogether. Like they say: if you don’t smoke the first one, it’s physically impossible to smoke the rest.

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