In April 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced an investigation into reports of people experiencing seizures after using e-cigarettes. The FDA had received 35 reported cases of seizures following use of e-cigarettes when it announced the investigation. Since then, the agency has received 92 new reports, bringing the total number to 127 cases of seizures and other neurological issues.
The reports received by the FDA occurred between 2010 and early 2019. The FDA said the evidence it has analyzed so far doesn’t establish a clear pattern or cause for the cases, so it’s unclear whether e-cigarettes caused the seizures. The agency is continuing its investigation.
Unlike traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes haven’t been around long enough to make conclusive correlation claims. For now, scientists and medical professionals can only look at the similarities between traditional cigarettes and e-cigarettes and continue to accumulate new evidence. However, they do have some ideas as to why seizures may be occurring after vaping.
Acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless said in a statement, “We appreciate the public response to our initial call for reports, and we strongly encourage the public to submit new or follow-up reports with as much detail as possible. Additional reports or more detailed information about these incidents are vital to help inform our analysis and may help us identify common risk factors and determine whether any specific e-cigarette product attributes, such as nicotine content or formulation, may be more likely to contribute to seizures.”
The mostly likely culprit appears to be the high concentrations of nicotine in e-cigarette liquids. Nicotine affects the part of the brain responsible for emotions, memory and survival instincts. High doses of nicotine can be poisonous, causing nausea, sweating, dizziness and tremors, with seizures or even death occurring in severe cases.
Studies have found that some e-cigarette liquids misstate the amount of nicotine in the product. The researchers discovered that e-liquids labeled as having a concentration of 18mg/mL contained as much as 52 percent more than that. Other e-liquids contained less nicotine than stated, so there is virtually no way for consumers to tell what amount of nicotine they are getting when they vape.