6 people in B.C. have reported illnesses potentially related to vaping since June

Half a dozen people in B.C. have reported illnesses that may be related to vaping since June 1, the provincial health officer says.

However, these cases are under investigation and have not yet been confirmed or declared probable cases due to vaping, Dr. Bonnie Henry said.

But they are an indication B.C. is not immune to the illnesses caused by vaping that have resulted in around 1,300 cases of lung injury and more than two dozen deaths in the U.S.

"I suspect at least one or two of these will turn out to be related to vaping for sure," Henry said of the reported illnesses in B.C.

"I fully expect that we will continue to see cases being identified here in Canada and in B.C."

As of Friday, three "confirmed or probable" cases of severe lung illness related to vaping had been identified in Canada: one in Quebec, and two in New Brunswick.

Henry and other members of the Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health renewed their call Friday for Canadians to refrain from vaping until more is known about what's causing the severe lung issues. 

Health Canada has warned of the potential risks of pulmonary illness associated with vaping products, which include e-cigarettes that contain tobacco or THC. The cause of these illnesses remains unclear, but according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chemical exposure is the likely cause.

Vaping among youth on the rise

Last month, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said the province will look at toughening laws, boosting enforcement and educating teens and parents about the risks associated with vaping. 

Rates of smoking among Canadian youth have decreased significantly in recent years, but Henry says she is worried about the surging popularity of vaping among young people.

"We are very concerned that we are getting a whole new generation of young people addicted to nicotine. And that's what these are being marketed as," she said.

Prohibiting vaping devices that include nicotine could drive people to the illegal market, Henry said, where there are more risks with the nondisclosure of ingredients. These include harmful and potentially harmful substances such as solvents, cancer-causing chemicals like formaldehyde, heavy metals and flavourings.

But Henry says flavoured e-juices should be banned due to their appeal to youth, and companies should be required to report vape juice ingredients to Health Canada.

"There's a lot more we can do to help regulate and manage this product," she said. 

"I'm concerned and frustrated that we are so far behind. It's something that we are increasingly recognizing that big tobacco has taken over as a way to try and get new people interested in nicotine containing products. And that's very frustrating."

Vancouver Coastal Health spokesperson Tiffany Akins said no vaping-related illnesses have been reported in the region.

But the health authority is monitoring the situation, she said, and anyone who has used an e-cigarette or vaping product recently and experiences any of the following symptoms is encouraged to see a doctor:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Fever

"There are a lot of misconceptions and unknowns surrounding vaping. The long term health effects of vaping are something that we don't know because it's so new," Akins said.

"We're concerned about vaping, period."