The vaping industry in Australia has suffered another setback after an autopsy of a man that died in October 2021 revealed that the likely cause of death was EVALI – a fatal side effect of vaping.
E-cigarette or Vaping product use-Associated Lung Injury (EVALI) causes the sufferer to have difficulty breathing.
“I feel quite passionately that there was no other clear cause for his death,” said Sean McManus, Mr Hansen’s intensive care doctor, speaking in support of the finding into Mr Hansen’s death. “In the absence of anything else, my feeling was that, well, certainly in the history and the presentation of Peter (Mr Hansen), it was obvious that the e-cigarettes was a large part of it.”
Vaping is commonly used as a safer alternative to smoking, with e-cigarettes and associated vaping products popular among (particularly young) people looking to avoid cancer and other deadly side-effects related to traditional smoking.
‘Safer’ not ‘safe’.
Due to ongoing safety concerns (and accusations that the government is protecting the tax pool collected from smoking) Australia has not been as liberal with the vaping industry as its neighbours, with vaping made a prescription-only product.
Government policy severely limits the market reach of vaping. Demand definitely outstrips the legal capacity for vaping companies to operate, with heavy fines already issued to the industry over a range of problems including black market operations and breaches in advertising standards.
Peter Hansen, a 71-year-old Queensland man, is suspected of dying from acute lung damage (EVALI) although the autopsy did not conclusively prove it.
If he did die from EVALI, he would not be the first, with the CDC reporting an outbreak of lung injury associated with vaping in 2020, issuing a statement:
“Vitamin E acetate is strongly linked to the EVALI outbreak. Vitamin E acetate has been found in product samples tested by FDA and state laboratories and in patient lung fluid samples tested by CDC from geographically diverse states.”
According to the CDC, as of February 18, 2020 there were over 2,000 EVALI cases which either required hospitalisation or that died. The cases were reported across America.
Australia’s strict vaping laws centre around the dangers of vaping and as a deterrent to stop young people from taking up the habit. It has been argued – and hotly contested – that vaping puts teenagers on a path to smoking because it contains Nicotine, the addictive component of cigarettes. Supporters of vaping insist that the reverse is true, with vaping being used by many as an escape from smoking. Users have reported that they find it easier to wean themselves off vaping rather than cigarettes.
Vaping is, however, perceived as being ‘cool’ and has a community built up around the practice which health officials are worried about. Vaping among young Australians has doubled from 2016 to 2019.
The vaping community has suffered from safety-related setbacks before, with stories of e-cigarette batteries exploding and injuring people sparking concern about whether they should remain legal. In June of 2021, the Western Australia Director of Energy Safety reported that two men had been left with chemical burns after the lithium-ion batteries inside the e-cigarettes caught fire. Their burns were significant.