Canada Reports First Respiratory Illness Linked to Vaping

(Bloomberg) -- A youth has been diagnosed with a severe respiratory illness linked to vaping in Ontario, the first reported incident of the condition in Canada.

The individual was admitted to an intensive care unit and required life support but recovered and is now at home, according to Christopher Mackie, medical officer of health at the Middlesex-London Health Unit in the southwest of Canada’s most populous province.

“There’s no smoking gun and no way to say for sure that any individual case of pulmonary illness is caused by vaping,” Dr. Mackie said at televised news conference. “But in this situation, there was no other cause identified other than vaping in this high-school-aged youth.”

He declined to comment on whether the individual used e-cigarettes, cannabis vaping products or both but said the product was used daily.

Mackie said it is believed to be the first case in Canada of the pulmonary illnesses that have erupted in the U.S. About 380 incidents of the respiratory condition were reported in the U.S. as of mid-September, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The severity of the cases vary, but six people have died.

Around the U.S., doctors have now seen hundreds of cases where patients have shown up in the emergency room, suddenly stricken with dangerous respiratory damage. Their lungs looked like they’d been ravaged by a disease, or as if they’d been exposed to a noxious industrial chemical.

The hope had been that vaping could help to curtail tobacco use, which leads to more than 480,000 deaths a year in the U.S. That shaped the Food and Drug Administration’s initial approach to regulating the industry. But a surge in the use of vaping products by teenagers – many of whom said that they had never smoked cigarettes – caused the agency to change tack.

Global Phenomenon

Last week, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the FDA would issue guidance in coming weeks intended to clamp down on the sale of almost all flavored vaping products.

Across the world, India was the latest country to ban electronic cigarettes only days after Juul Labs Inc.’s products vanished from online Chinese marketplaces, signaling that Asian nations may be no refuge for the industry from an escalating crackdown in the U.S.

“We are seeing vaping rates exploding in young people,” Dr. Mackie said. “It is leading to use of other tobacco products in youth. It’s concerning.”

Lack of data in Canada, where the country has legalized marijuana use, prompted the provincial government to issue an order Wednesday requiring hospitals to gather more information on incidences of vaping-related severe pulmonary disease.

The owner of Circle K convenience stores, Quebec-based Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., supports a higher age restriction for vaping and is committed to not selling open-source vaping devices, Chief Executive Officer Brian Hannasch said in a Bloomberg interview before the statement from Middlesex-London Health unit came through Wednesday.

But, he cautioned policy makers against drastic moves on e-cigarettes in the wake of serious illness and deaths linked to vaping.

“If there’s just outright bans and you’ve got clear consumer demand, grey and dark market is going to dominate,” Hannasch said after the company’s shareholders meeting in a Montreal suburb. “Then you lose control over the quality of the supply chain.”

Michael R. Bloomberg, the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP, has campaigned and given money in support of a ban on flavored e-cigarettes and tobacco.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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