UNDERSTANDING VAPING-RELATED ILLNESS
What is EVALI, and why you should be concerned.
Vaping is bad for you, but until recently people didn’t realize just how bad. With more than 1,300 cases and 26 deaths nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued an official name for the newly identified vaping-related illness: EVALI, which stands for “e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury.” With more people being hospitalized each week, many states—including Washington—have issued bans on flavored vaping products.
Vaping is just as harmful as traditional tobacco products—so, why do we think of it as a healthier alternative?
In a word: marketing. When e-cigarettes first appeared on shelves, they were sold as a product that could help adult smokers kick a deadly habit and as a healthier alternative to cigarettes. The part they left out is that the chemicals that make up the vapor and their effects on physical health over the long term are largely unknown.
Vaping has been around for a while, why are we only seeing this illness now?
Public Health officials believe that some dangerous chemicals or combination of chemicals have been introduced into the vaping product pipeline. When people inhale this toxic ‘cocktail’ it sets off dangerous, even lethal, reactions inside the lungs. EVALI can look like the flu with symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, vomiting, coughing and fever, so previous cases had not been linked directly.
How can we be sure the illness is linked to vaping?
In the cases documented to date, every patient reported using vaping products within 90 days of the onset of symptoms, and in many of the reported cases, patients had used these products more recently. In addition, none of the patients had an infection or other condition (like the flu) that would explain the lung disease.
Does this mean vape users should return to using traditional tobacco products?
One thing is clear: both vaping and smoking are very bad for your health. While we might like to think there is a healthier smoking alternative, we now see that there simply is not. If you don’t use vaping products, don’t start, and if you vape or smoke, the best thing you can do for your health—and the health of those around you—is to quit.
Need help quitting vaping or smoking?
The Trust offers programs to stop all tobacco and vaping for all participants and their eligible spouses, 18 years of age or older. These programs are fully paid for by the Trust and offer personalized phone-based sessions with a coach, and nicotine replacement therapy, if prescribed. To find out more visit the Quit Tobacco program page on our website, or to enroll, PPO Plan participants can call (877) 362-9969, option 4 and Kaiser Plan participants can call (866) 784-8454.