FDA To Investigate Whether Vaping Causes Seizures

By Lindsey Weedston 04/08/19
The FDA will investigate cases of seizures possibly related to vaping—but no links have been made yet.
man vaping

The Food and Drug Administration announced Wednesday that it will be looking into 35 individual cases of people having seizures after vaping between 2010 and 2019.

Most of these cases have happened to young adults or underage kids, and the FDA is concerned about the implications, according to CNBC.

“While 35 cases may not seem like much compared to the total number of people using e-cigarettes, we are nonetheless concerned by these reported cases,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and Principal Deputy Commissioner Amy Abernethy.

Vaping with e-cigarettes has grown in popularity, sparking concern among health experts who stress that even without the additives found in normal cigarettes, nicotine can still have negative health effects that get worse the younger the user is.

It’s currently unclear whether the seizures in these 35 cases were caused by vaping, but these alarming and potentially dangerous neurological events can be caused by nicotine poisoning.

"We're sharing this early information with the public because as a public health agency, it's our job to communicate about potential safety concerns associated with the products we regulate that are under scientific investigation by the agency," Gottlieb and Abernethy said in their joint statement.

Last December, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams officially declared e-cigarette use among young people to be a national epidemic. E-cigarettes are often marketed as being safe alternatives to regular cigarettes and surveys have found that young people believe the hype.

Vaping is no less addictive than combustible smoking, and according to an article in Yale Medicine, studies are finding that “vaping increases the risk a teen will smoke regular cigarettes later.”

Health experts are also concerned about the high concentration of nicotine in each e-cigarette “pod”—the replaceable cartridges that contain the liquid form of the drug—compared to a combustible cigarette. Some of these pods contain higher concentrations than others, and some, called “pod mods,” are made from nicotine salts that have an even higher concentration of nicotine than the traditional e-cigarette pod.

According to the Surgeon General Advisory on e-cigarettes, they can also contain heavy metals, chemical flavorants linked to lung disease, and “volatile organic compounds.” The FDA has had difficulty keeping up with the rapid development of the vaping industry, meaning that users may be unknowingly inhaling unsafe materials.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse also found that a full two-thirds of teens who vape believe that their e-cigarettes only contain flavoring. Only 13.2% knew that they were inhaling nicotine.

Still, the FDA acknowledges that there are many other factors that could have led to the seizures, including other drugs taken and prior histories of seizures. 

“We want to be clear that we don't yet know if there's a direct relationship between the use of e-cigarettes and a risk of seizure," they said.

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Lindsey Weedston is a Seattle area writer focused on mental health and addiction, politics, human rights, and various social issues. Her work has appeared in The Establishment, Ravishly, ThinkProgress, Little Things, Yes! Magazine, and others. You can find her daily writings at NotSorryFeminism.com. Twitter: https://twitter.com/LindseyWeedston