UK raises vape safety fears after two deaths

While the outbreak of vaping-related fatalities in the US linked to fake and illicit e-cigarette cartridges seems to be on the wane, the UK says it may have seen its first cases.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) says it is aware of two potential deaths linked to e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury (EVALI) in the UK in the past year, and is currently investigating.

The agency says that as of January 8 it had received 244, adverse reaction reports to e-cigarettes, including 20 involving “27 serious respiratory events including lipoid pneumonia, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, pulmonary fibrosis, pleural effusion, pneumothorax, lower respiratory tract infection, and infectious pneumonia.”

It is estimated that around 3.6m people use e-cigarettes in the UK, and Public Health England recommends cigarette smokers swap to these products as part of the quitting process. It does however recommend that people who have never smoked don’t start vaping.

The latest numbers from the US as of January 21 reveal that there have been 2,711 EVALI cases requiring hospitalisation since the start of the outbreak, and 60 deaths.

Vitamin E acetate – an ingredient found in vapes that has been closely associated with EVALI – was found in the lungs of 48 out of 51 cases in a recently-reported laboratory study in the US. 'Dank Vapes’, a class of largely counterfeit tetrahydrocannabidiol (THC) containing products of unknown origin, was the most commonly reported product brand used by the patients.

The MHRA recommends that healthcare professionals consider the possibility of EVALI if patients present with respiratory symptoms where there is a history of e-cigarette use or vaping in the past 30 days.

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