The Department of Health on Friday confirmed the country’s first reported case of lung injury related to vaping in Central Visayas, even as it warned that legal challenges to its authority over the industry was a step back for public health.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque told GMA News that the patient was a 16-year-old girl, while a DOH statement said the girl had been using e-cigarettes for 6 months while also smoking regular cigarettes.
“If you are currently using electronic cigarettes, you are at great risk for EVALI,” Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said in a statement, using the acronym for electronic cigarette or vaping-associated lung injury.
“Ask your doctor about the best ways to quit, and stay away from its aerosol emissions.”
E-cigarettes vaporize a flavored solution that users inhale. Unlike regular cigarettes, they do not use tobacco.
The patient was admitted to the hospital on Oct. 21 after reporting severe shortness of breath, the DOH said. She required oxygen supplementation and eventually admitted to the intensive care unit.
Doctors thought the disease to be infectious, but confirmed it was EVALI after further evaluation, the health department added.
The DOH earlier called for a ban on vaping, noting e-cigarettes are used by 1 million Filipinos, most of them young, but a number of vaping companies have sued the department in Manila and Pasig courts to stop it from exercising its authority over the industry.
Domingo had said the department would abide by the preliminary injunction but said he hoped the lawsuits could be resolved “with utmost urgency.”
Electronic cigarettes, he said, are also being used for the consumption of illicit drugs, exploiting the developing brains of adolescents who are susceptible to addiction, and skirting anti-smoking laws designed to protect the non-smoking public.
“As international evidence points out, every delay in regulating electronic cigarettes is a step back for public health. The resolution of these legal issues is in everybody’s interest,” Domingo said.
Without regulation of the industry, Domingo said there is little that stands in the way of unscrupulous persons to take advantage of the situation for financial gain.
He said there are few deterrents to creating e-cigarette products that do not conform to basic safety standards.
The DOH and Food and Drug Administration advise the public, especially persons under the age of 25, pregnant women, immunocompromised persons, the elderly, and those with heart disease, to avoid electronic cigarettes altogether.
Both agencies have reached out to the attending physician from Region VII to know more details of the first case of EVALI.
Just last week, the DOH called on the public to beware of consumer products in the light of the recent explosion of a vaping device while being used by a 17-year-old boy.
Because of this incident, the DOH cautioned parents and guardians to be vigilant and to exert more effort in discouraging minors from using e-cigarettes/vaping devices, as well as accessing these devices from social media.
These devices are not toys and contain concomitant health and safety hazards which may lure teenagers into picking up the habit of smoking.
The DOH, through the Food and Drug Administration and in cooperation with the Department of Trade and Industry, shall continue to investigate and look into the safety and health issues of these products and devices including its online sale.
Currently, the FDA regulates e-cigarettes as medicinal products because of its nicotine content and no device/e-liquids have been registered nor evaluated by the agency for safety, efficacy, and quality.
The DOH encouraged medical practitioners, hospital facilities and the general public to report any injuries and accidents related to vaping use under its online national electronic injury surveillance system by calling the DOH Hotline 711-1001 and 711-1002.
According to the medical doctors at the East Avenue Medical Center, the patient suffered injuries to the lips, oral mucosa, palate, and tongue, as well as burns and hematoma in the upper and lower lids of the eye. He was admitted at EAMC last Oct. 30.
The victim’s mother said the batteries used were swapped and exchanged by the patient through acquaintances in social media.
However, the social media account used was already inactive when the family tried to access it. With PNA