The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued a press release reporting a rise in severe lung illness associated with the use of e-cigarettes.

Between June 28 and August 20 of this year, 193 potential cases of severe pulmonary disease, including one death, associated with vaping were reported across 22 states. As vaping is perceived as less harmful than traditional smoking, it is part of a growing trend in both the young adult and adult populations. If cases continue to increase at this rate, the potential public health impact will likely be significant.  

Respiratory conditions in the US

GlobalData epidemiologists present the diagnosed prevalence of two major forms of respiratory disease in the US; asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (as shown in Figure 1).

In 2019, the proportion of the US population with asthma is around 15%. The proportion of people with COPD is around 8%. This translates to approximately 50 million cases of asthma and approximately 15 million cases of COPD. The potential impact of vaping will likely be two-fold: one, it will increase the number of diagnosed cases of both asthma and COPD; and two, it will exacerbate symptoms in current cases, leading to increased hospitalisations. Both of these outcomes increase the burden of disease and healthcare costs in the US.

Increased surveillance and education is needed at the local and state health department levels to help catch cases earlier (prior to hospitalisation). Such a response would also help to better identify the disease etiology behind the recent cluster of respiratory cases.