Amidst the frenzy surrounding e-cigarettes, with a mystery lung illness in more than a thousand individuals and approximately 20 deaths, now comes a study linking lung and bladder cancer to mice exposed to nicotine in e-cigarette vapor. The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, was conducted by researchers at New York University and published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. Within the study, nine out of the 40 (22.5 percent) mice exposed to nicotine e-cigarette vapor over 54 weeks developed lung cancer, and 57.5 percent of the mice developed hyperplasia, a risk factor associated with bladder cancer. The mice in the study were exposed to the amount of vapor similar to a person who had vaped between three to six years. However, there were some limitations to the study that were noted. First, the mice did not inhale the vapor as deeply as a person does when typically using an e-cigarette and second, the study was done on a small number of mice who were likely to develop cancer in their lifetime. The study’s lead researcher acknowledged that the effects of carcinogenic e-cigarettes on humans may not be known for some time, perhaps not for another 10 years.
While the science is slowly catching up to potential health hazards of long term exposure of e-cigarettes, the recent daily reports of growing illnesses and deaths for patients reporting a history of using e-cigarette or vaping products are taking the nation by storm. Most patients also report a history of using specifically THC-containing products. As of October 8, 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state agencies are reporting 1,080 vaping illnesses and 23 vaping-related deaths across the country. However, the specific chemical exposure or mechanism causing lung injuries associated with vaping remains unknown at this time (diagnoses from treating providers currently range from chemical pneumonitis to alveolar hemorrhage to lipoid pneumonia) and no single product or substance has been linked to all lung injury cases.
Federal and state agencies and governments, as well as private retailers, are responding aggressively. As of October 8, 2019, Michigan, New York, Massachusetts Rhode Island, Montana, Washington, Oregon, and San Francisco have all enacted legislation outright banning or drastically limiting online and retail sales of all marijuana and tobacco vaping products, flavored or otherwise. Illinois, New Jersey and Delaware are currently considering similar legislation. In addition, the following retailers are discontinuing sales of electronic cigarettes in their stores: Rite Aid, Walmart, Sam’s Club, Kroger, Harris Teeter, Ralphs, Fred Meyer, and Walgreens.
For more information about youth vaping, the current vaping-related mystery illness, and the potential effect on the insurance industry, listen to Jessica Butkera’s interview on Goldberg Segalla’s Timely Notice podcast, “Vape Pens: Toxic Time Bombs” or contact: