Between 2010 and early 2019, the FDA received 35 reports of people experiencing seizures after smoking e-cigarettes. These primarily occurred among younger people, although no clear pattern has yet emerged. Unfortunately, there has been a “slight but noticeable increase” since June of last year. Could vaping have a risk people are unaware of?
The reported cases included people who had a seizure after vaping just once and people who had been vaping for a while. Sometimes, the seizure occurred during or immediately after vaping, while other times the seizure took place later. Some victims were already diagnosed with seizure disorders, while others were not. Some vaped while using other drugs, including marijuana and amphetamines.
The FDA made clear that it has not identified a definitive link between e-cigarettes and seizures. It is asking for anyone who suffered an unreported seizure after vaping to report it. Additional cases to study would be helpful in determining a link.
“We know that nicotine isn’t a harmless substance, especially in the developing brains of our youth,” the FDA said in a statement. “But we’ve also been clear that, even for adults, e-cigarettes are not risk free.”
Seizures are already known to be a possible effect of nicotine poisoning, says the agency.
E-cigarettes vary in the level of nicotine they deliver. This can be due to the amount of nicotine in the liquid, or it can depend on the delivery device itself. Some users may deliberately or accidentally use more nicotine than recommended. Plus, the nicotine concentrations in the liquid are apparently on the rise. A study published in February suggests that when e-cigarette giant Juul raised its nicotine concentrations, other manufacturers followed suit.
Bottles of nicotine-containing vape liquid could be a hazard
On top of the potential for seizures, another poisoning risk could affect many e-cigarette users. While some other manufacturers package the nicotine into disposable pods, others produce refillable e-cigarette mouthpieces or vaporizers. This second style requires bottles of e-liquid for refills.
Unfortunately, those bottles of nicotine liquid can be poisonous, even to adults. Spilling the liquid on your hands may give you a large dose of nicotine. Furthermore, the bottles are generally not child proof. Children could easily spill or even ingest the liquid, resulting in dangerous levels of nicotine.
The FDA has increasingly been taking an active role in regulating e-cigarettes. While Juul and other manufacturers insist their products are a safer alternative to smoking, the agency is studying whether vaping may still cause cancer. It is also concerned that vaping has skyrocketed among young people and is investigating whether manufacturers have contributed to the increase. It remains unclear to what extent the increase in vaping among young people might make them more inclined to switch to cigarette smoking in the future than they would have been had they not vaped.