Doctors demand e-cigarette ban after first suspected death in Belgium

Doctors demand e-cigarette ban after first suspected death in Belgium
The 18-year-old passed away after being admitted with breathing problems, which doctors suspect were caused by his vaping habit. Credit: Stock Image/Pixabay

Pulmonologists renewed calls for a general ban on electronic cigarettes following news that a teenager's death in a Brussels hospital was linked to his use of electronic cigarettes.

"We don't know what the longterm effects of e-cigarettes are, we do not have a good enough overview of the chemicals that are inside," Doctor Ingel Demedts said in an interview with Radio 1.

"The standpoint of the European Association of Pulmonologists (sic), is that there should be a ban," he added, noting that after the teen's recently reported death, the association could only "strengthen" their standpoint.

Demedts' statements follow news that an 18-year-old died from pulmonary complications which doctors handling his case suspect were the result of his use of an electronic cigarette.

The teen, identified as Raphaël, is said to have received the e-cigarette as a gift and to have used it with CBD oil, which doctors suspect is to blame for his rapid pulmonary deteriorating.

The teenager passed away in Brussels' Saint-Luc clinic on 6 November after being admitted with respiratory problems. Speaking to Belgian media, his father said he had been admitted after he had spent "the whole night coughing."

"Raphaël had a hard time breathing for five days," his father Thierry told HLN. "He coughed enormously and also spit blood," he added.

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Doctors who treated Raphaël at the Saint-Luc clinic said no tests existed which could allow for a direct link to be made between the teenager's death and his vaping habit, but that all other possible causes had been ruled out.

"The case is comparable to other cases in the United States where people used home-made cannabidiol with their e-cigarettes," Marc Meysman, who leads the pneumology department at UZ Brussels University Hospital, said in a phone interview.

"These are substances which are often vicious and which are evidently not good for us to breathe in," he said, adding: "Our lungs are clearly not made to inhale vapours."

Tests are currently being carried out on the CBD liquid that Raphaël used to vape, whose origin remains unclear, in order to determine its composition.

Referring to the 39 reported deaths in the United States, Demedts said that "in 80% of cases, death was caused by a substance that people added to e-cigarette themselves."

Meysman said that Belgian regulations on e-cigarettes are stricter than those in the United States, referring in particular to the maximum quantity of nicotine that was allowed.

Jan Eyckmans of the federal public health service told HLN that it was waiting to hear back from Saint-Luc on the tests' results and that measures would be taken "if necessary," noting that regulations prohibited the addition of certain additives, such as vitamins and caffeine, into liquids used for vaping.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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