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B.C. health officials confirm province’s first potential vaping-related illness

Several patients have shown symptoms after using e-cigarettes or similar devices. Richard Zussman has more on what's known about this initial confirmed case

British Columbia has confirmed its first potential case of a vaping-related illness.

Chief Medical Health Officer Bonnie Henry says there are several other investigations underway that may also meet the case definition of probable or confirmed vaping-related illnesses in the near future.

READ MORE: U.S. schools install vape detectors, no interest from B.C. school districts

“These are the first cases of vaping-related illness in B.C., but we fully expect there will be more as this is quickly emerging as a significant public health issue,” Henry said.

“Vaping is turning back the clock on decades of effective anti-smoking efforts and creating a new generation of young people addicted to nicotine.”

Two B.C. men launch lawsuit against vaping giant
Two B.C. men launch lawsuit against vaping giant

Henry would not release any details on where the individual lives, whether they are a man or woman or their age only saying the person is young and they have fully recovered.

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In total the province has looked at or is looking at seven cases. Two have been ruled out and four more are being investigated on top of the one confirmed case.

In September, a youth in London, Ont., was put on life support as a result of a suspected vaping-related illness. According to health authorities in Ontario, that was the first vaping-related illness in Canada.

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The Middlesex-London Health Unit said that the high school-aged youth had to be temporarily put in the intensive care unit, and has since recovered.

The B.C. government has promised additional rules around vaping, especially linked to access to young people, but has not provided any details yet.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says he would like to see the federal government put in restrictions on nicotine levels for vaping products and flavouring.

“We know that the current regulatory scheme was set up by the provincial government does not work very well. We know that. I am not blaming anyone. That’s just a fact and we are changing it,” Dix said.

“We have to take the right actions and we will be doing that soon.”

B.C. politicians react to Canada’s first known case of vaping-related illness
B.C. politicians react to Canada’s first known case of vaping-related illness

Under the current system there are around 6,500 B.C. vendors that can sell tobacco products compared to around 90,000 points of sale for vaping products.

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B.C. Liberal MLA Todd Stone introduced a private member’s bill in April to ban flavoured vapour products, introduce tighter retail controls and roll out tougher penalties for non-compliance. Last month, Stone sent a letter to Dix calling on immediate action.

“Our kids are being drawn in and hooked to this unhealthy practice in increasing numbers as a direct result of the efforts vape companies have made to deliberately target our youth with kid-friendly e-cigarette flavours like fruit medley, gummy bear, and mango,” Stone wrote.

READ MORE: B.C. health minister promises crackdown on youth vaping after calls for Canada to act

On Sept. 19, Henry issued a notice under the Reporting Information Affecting Public Health Regulation that requires B.C. physicians to report incidences of patients exhibiting symptoms that meet the national case definition.

According to the province, this includes patients who report vaping using e-cigarette devices, related products or other means of inhaling a variety of products in the 90 days before symptom onset.

The criteria also covers patients who have pulmonary infiltrates on X-ray imaging and whose illnesses are not attributed to other causes.