E-Cigarette Link to Health Conditions: MHRA

Peter Russell

October 01, 2019

The use of e-cigarettes was linked to a wide range of health conditions over the last 5 years in the UK, according to data by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

There were 74 yellow card adverse reports associated with nicotine-containing e-cigarettes between the start of 2014 and the 11th September this year, figures showed.

The statistics emerged as the US reported 12 deaths and 805 cases of lung injury involving people with a history of 'vaping'. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said many of the cases were linked to liquids that contained cannabinoid products, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Media reports this week claimed that the first death in the UK linked to vaping had taken place involving a factory worker from Tyne and Wear whose pneumonia was associated with oil from an e-cigarette in his lungs.

Yellow Card Reports

The figures from the MHRA showed a peak of 24 yellow card adverse reports in 2017, and 17 last year. So far, in 2019, seven reports had been filed.

Of the 74 reports since 2014, 49 were considered to be serious, and 25 non-serious.

The MHRA stressed that the figures should not be interpreted as a list of possible side effects, nor should the data be used to estimate the frequency of side effects.

The most common side-effects included respiratory disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, nervous system disorders, immune system disorders, and cardiac disorders.

The CDC said that investigations into lung injuries caused by e-cigarette use suggested that products containing THC played an important role. It found that among 514 patients who had vaped in the 30 days prior to symptoms:

  • About 77% reported using THC-containing products

  • 36% reported exclusive use of THC-containing products

  • About 57% reported using nicotine-containing products

  • 16% reported exclusive use of nicotine-containing products

The CDC said that no single product or substance had been linked to all lung injury cases. However, it recommended that while the investigation was ongoing, people should refrain from using e-cigarettes, particularly those containing THC.

The MHRA emphasised that THC was a controlled substance in the UK and that no vaping products containing THC were approved for sale on the UK market. It advised that vaping products should not be modified or used with homemade or black market cartridges containing illicit substances

Public Health England advises that vaping is a safer alternative to smoking.

Pneumonia Case

Press reports focused this week on an inquest into glass-factory worker Terry Miller who died aged 57 from lipoid pneumonia linked to using e-cigarettes in 2010. It was reported that pneumonia was attributed to "inhalation of oil-blended concentrated nicotine from the device".

His wife was quoted in The Daily Telegraph saying: "I want people to know that despite what Public Health England may say about them being 95% safer than cigarettes, these things can kill.

"People are puffing away on them thinking they're totally safe and they aren't."

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