Gottlieb says lung disease spike linked to fake vape products

A rise in serious lung diseases among people who use electronic cigarettes is likely caused by illegal products, says former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.

In a series of tweets, Gottlieb said that legal e-cigarettes or vapes have been regulated by the FDA since 2017, so recent deaths linked to use of the products likely stem from illegal products, such as those used to deliver cannabis compounds.

He went on to say that health officials “can target imports and conduct blitzes at international mail facilities to try and capture, shut down more illegal and counterfeit vapes and source some of the dangerous products. There are already published FDA lists of known dangerous ingredients to look for.”

Gottlieb‘s comments were prompted by the revelation that there have been almost 200 cases of lung disorders, including one death, reported to the FDA among users of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) since June.

It’s estimated that more than 3.6m middle and high school students were using vapes last year, representing a massive increase over the prior year and coming amid many years of declining cigarette use.

Gottlieb made regulating the sector a key objective for the FDA during his time at the agency, and was instrumental in introducing measures to reduce youth vaping, along with proposing measures to try to force tobacco companies to make their products less addictive.

The former FDA head said that “many current illnesses are likely caused by constituents being used in illegal products. Not legal, regulated brands. We shouldn’t conflate legal with illegal products.”

However, he added: “Nor can we ignore fact that legally sold products have shirked obligations of their own to address youth use.”

Image courtesy of Sarah Johnson via Flickr

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