FDA Investigates Potential Link between Vaping and Seizures
The Food and Drug Administration has reviewed 35 reports of seizures among e-cigarette users, mainly young people. The FDA is unaware whether vaping is responsible, however these cases warrant “investigation into whether there is in fact a connection,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement.
Seizures or convulsions are known potential side effects of nicotine toxicity and have been reported in scientific literature relating to intentional or accidental swallowing of e-liquid. However, according to the FDA, a recent uptick in voluntary reports of adverse experiences with tobacco products that mentioned seizures occurring with e-cigarette use (e.g., vaping) signal a potential emerging safety issue. It is difficult to cause nicotine poisoning from traditional methods of consumption, like smoking, however, the potency potential in e-cigarette liquid has made public health officials suspicious. The FDA’s concerns come after a February study finding that e-cigarette manufacturers were increasing their nicotine concentrations. This may be beneficial to addicted adult smokers but makes it potentially addictive to nicotine-naïve teenagers. “The teenage brain is still evolving significantly. There’s a lot of changes that are still happening up until your mid-20s or more than that, so the neurochemistry is a little bit different, and they may be more susceptible,” said Dr. Derek Chong, vice chair of neurology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
This is not the first incident the FDA has flagged as a potential health hazard with vaping devices (rare burns and explosions related to overheating batteries); therefore, the agency has decided to pursue these reports seriously. These reports come in the wake of a nationwide push to fight underage use of e-cigarettes, which have surged in popularity among middle school and high school students. This popularity has led underage teens to use two or three pods of JUUL (the most popular e-cigarette brand) per day, which is the equivalent – in terms of nicotine – of at least two to three packs of traditional cigarettes per day.
What needs further study is what type of e-cigarette could deliver levels of nicotine capable of causing seizures, said Maciej Goniewicz, a toxicologist at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, New York. The FDA is cautious in making any early conclusions throughout this investigation because the seizure reports often lack information about the brand of e-cigarette, or whether users had a medical condition that might have contributed.
Nonetheless, the agency is continuing to seek details about vaping brands and models and whether users who have experienced problems were also taking medications, supplements, or other drugs. Gottlieb has issued this notice hoping to raise pressure on e-cigarette sellers and makers stating, “if rates of use among kids don’t come down, we’ll need to take additional steps.”
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