The Ministry of Health has warned the public about the dangers of vaping, particularly on the heels of reports of a rash of deaths and severe breathing illnesses linked to the habit in the United States.
In a statement issued today, the ministry said that the cause of the illnesses, which have so far resulted in six deaths, was still not entirely clear, but investigations were ongoing by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Kenneth George, said the fairly recent fad, mostly among teenagers and young adults, has involved smoking flavoured e-cigarettes with nicotine oils and more recently marijuana oils.
The ministry advised that particularly minors, pregnant women and people who have never smoked should avoid vaping since they were at increased risk of adverse reactions, including respiratory illnesses.
People who vape were warned against using home-made solutions, and the ministry stressed that it did not recommend e-cigarettes as an aid to quit smoking aid.
The Health Services (Smoking Regulations) 2017 defines electronic smoking devices as tobacco products for the purposes of restricting their marketing and sales to minors and forbidding their use in public spaces.
In the more than 450 cases so far confirmed in the United States, breathing problems ranged from coughing and difficulty breathing to chest pain. There were also gastrointestinal symptoms, including nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
The non-specific symptoms being experienced include fever and fatigue.
The Ministry of Health said it will be issuing guidelines to healthcare providers summarizing the situation and sharing the local case definition for surveillance purposes.
The ministry is also asking hospitals and urgent care providers to ask patients who come in with “significant respiratory distress” whether they had been vaping prior to the illness.