There May Be A Correlation Between Vaping And Seizures

The phenomenon of “vaping,” or smoking e-cigarettes, is so new that public health officials are still collecting information about whether it causes health problems. By and large, the health effects of e-cigarettes remain a mystery. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on August 7th that it has received 92 reports since April of cases where e-cigarettes may have caused seizures. In the month of April itself, the FDA received reports of 35 such cases. The announcement on Wednesday indicates that the FDA has now received notice of 127 seizures which are possibly related to vaping. The FDA also received reports of e-cigarette smokers fainting and having tremors.

According to the FDA, all 127 e-cigarette related seizures occurred between 2010 and 2019. Unsurprisingly, the majority of the victims were teenagers, since vaping among high school students has surged in popularity in recent years. Both experienced and first-time e-cigarette smokers reported seizures, sometimes after only light vaping or within as many as 24 hours of their last vaping session. The FDA has asked the public to continue reporting health problems for which vaping might be the cause at its website.

The FDA emphasized that vaping may not be the only reason for many of the seizures, and that scientists and FDA investigators have not yet determined that there is even a correlation between seizures and vaping. In the words of the FDA report, “the seizures may have been triggered by an underlying medical condition, use of other substances, or other factors.” For example, some of the people who reported a seizure to the FDA were smoking e-cigarettes and marijuana together, and some already had a diagnosed seizure disorder.

The FDA is continuing its scientific investigation to determine if there’s a direct relationship between the use of e-cigarettes and a risk of seizure or other neurological symptoms. We still don’t have enough information to determine if e-cigarettes are causing these reported incidents.

- Dr. Ned Sharpless, Acting Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration

Understanding The Risks Of E-cigarettes

Many people who vape are not aware that e-cigarettes contain nicotine, the addictive chemical in regular cigarettes. This lack of awareness is especially common among teenagers who use “just flavoring” e-cigarettes. These devices sometimes contain nicotine even though their labels claim they do not. In fact, if e-cigarettes cause seizures, health experts believe that this effect is the result of overdosing on nicotine. Most e-cigarettes are nicotine-based products, and e-cigarette vapor contains much more nicotine than many people realize.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that vaporize liquid (sometimes called “e-juice”) in a cartridge to produce vapor for smoking. Vaping is allegedly safer than smoking tobacco. However, e-cigarettes which truly lack nicotine still produce vapors that contain carcinogenic chemicals. A carcinogen is a substance that increases the risk of cancer. When a person smokes e-cigarettes, they inhale these chemicals directly into their lungs.

Since e-cigarettes do not always contain nicotine, vaping is not necessarily as addictive as smoking tobacco. Nevertheless, vaping may cause the brain to release dopamine, a chemical which reinforces behavior. Therefore, it might accustom the brain to drug use and serve as a gateway to later substance use disorders, especially in young people. Although the FDA continues to study the health effects of e-cigarettes, the FDA Commissioner stated with certainty earlier this year that vaping is not risk-free.

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Nathan Yerby

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  • Nathan Yerby is a writer and researcher. He is a graduate of the University of Central Florida.

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