As B.C. records its first illness likely connected to e-cigarettes, the province’s top doctor is encouraging parents to sit down with their kids and talk about the risks of vaping.
On Wednesday, health officials announced that case of probable vaping disease was discovered in the province in recent weeks.
“It was a young person [who was] vaping nicotine products only and they have recovered,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told Black Press Media, adding that there will likely be more cases in the coming months as the province investigates at least seven other suspected vaping-related cases.
Henry encouraged parents and adults to speak to the youth and teens in their lives about the risks and symptoms that can stem from vaping.
“It’s a challenging thing, I’ve been talking with young people in my life, too,” Henry said in phone interview.
E-cigarettes have become a trend that’s growing rapidly among young people in Canada. A recent study by Dr. David Hammond at the University of Waterloo suggests that, in just one year, vaping among youth increased by 74 per cent. The number of youth who reported smoking tobacco grew 45 per cent year over year, marking the first time that youth smoking rates in Canada have increased.
Henry recommended that parents step into the conversation with openness and understanding instead of a “just don’t do it” condemning approach.
Talk about why they may feel the need to turn to vaping, Henry said, whether that be because of peer pressure, a sense of belonging or a way to handle their mental health issues. Then share the health risks.
“The nicotine itself can cause addiction, it’s a chemical they are relying on to get through the day,” she said. “Nicotine can lead to memory loss, difficulty focusing.”
Symptoms to look out for include shortness of breath, coughing, or even abdominal pain and an unsettled stomach, Henry said.
Health officials in Canada and the U.S. are working to figure out the exact cause behind more than 1,000 people’s lung issues. There’s a lot doctors still don’t know about the health impacts, in-part due to a lack of regulation on what various vaping juices are allowed to include.
“Right now we don’t know what is causing it, and we are doing very detailed investigations into it,” Henry said. “We’re really focusing on the severe cases, and what in the product is causing the illnesses.”
In the case announced this week, doctors were able to use “a diagnosis of exclusion” to confirm the likeliness that the illness was linked to vaping.
Tests showed pulmonary infiltrates on the young person’s chest – a symptom associated with lung infections and diseases – and no alternative probable diagnosis,” Henry explained. Pulmonary inflitrates are substances thicker than air, like pus, blood, or protein, that linger in the lungs.
Every province is reporting any possible cases to the Public Health Agency of Canada, where the data is being shared across country borders.
In the meantime, Henry said the federal government needs to crack down on the various products being sold until health officials no more about the people getting sick from vaping.
“The most important thing,” she added,” it’s an indicator that these things are not innocuous and we need to keep them out of the hands of youth.”