Philippines confirms first case of vape-related illness

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 15 2019 03:38 PM | Updated as of Nov 15 2019 08:28 PM


MANILA (UPDATE) - The Philippines confirmed Friday its first reported case of an illness related to vaping or the use of e-cigarettes, one involving a teenage girl. 

The Department of Health (DOH) said it received the report on a recorded case of electronic cigarette or vaping-associated lung injury (EVALI) from Central Visayas.

It said the patient is a 16-year-old girl who has been using e-cigarettes for 6 months. The health department said she was into "dual use," "concurrently" smoking regular cigarettes.

The DOH said the girl was admitted to hospital on Oct. 21 complaining of "sudden-onset severe shortness of breath." 

She "required oxygen supplementation and ICU admission" and was initially thought to be afflicted with an infectious disease. 

"However, upon further evaluation, the patient met the case criteria for EVALI, based on the guidelines of the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC)," the DOH said. 

The girl was released after treatment. The DOH said it was in touch with the patient's attending pulmonologist for updates on her condition. 

“If you are currently using electronic cigarettes, you are at great risk for EVALI. Ask your doctor about the best ways to quit, and stay away from its aerosol emissions,” Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said in a statement.

E-cigarettes are devices that vaporize a solution that users inhale. It does not use tobacco leaves, unlike regular cigarettes.

It became popular among Filipinos, particularly the youth as a healthier alternative for those who want to quit smoking.

The Department of Health earlier called for an outright ban on vaping as it warned Filipinos that e-cigarettes are not a proven nicotine replacement therapy and can cause lung illness.

Around 1 million Filipinos use e-cigarettes according to the DOH.

Domingo said all e-cigarette users should "seek immediate medical help, and ask their doctors for ways to quit these harmful products."

"No e-cigarette product should be accessible to young children and adolescents, who are uniquely susceptible to the harms of e-cigarettes and nicotine. I urge non-users not to even try e-cigarettes at all,” he said. 

The DOH also called on the medical community to "exercise due diligence and specifically ask patients about vaping and e-cigarette use, especially those presenting with any respiratory symptoms such as shortness of breath, difficulty of breathing, and chest pain."

Reports of suspected EVALI cases may be sent to [email protected]