Hospitalizations on the rise among young Vietnamese due to e-cigarette poisoning

By VNA   July 10, 2024 | 08:32 pm PT
The number of hospitalizations due to using electronic cigarette mixed with drugs has been increasing recently, with most cases involving young patients experiencing acute poisoning.

In the first six months of 2024, the Poison Control Center at Hanoi's Bach Mai Hospital has treated around 100 cases of e-cigarette poisoning, compared to nearly 130 cases in the years 2022 and 2023.

On June 26, a 20-year-old man in Hanoi was rushed to the hospital after falling into a coma and suffering multiple organ damage after using e-cigarettes.

Around 4 a.m. that day, his family heard strange noises and found him convulsing and unconscious. He was immediately taken to a nearby hospital and then transferred to the Poison Control Center in a comatose state with respiratory failure, multiple organ damage, brain and heart injuries, severe metabolic acidosis and kidney failure.

Tests on the e-cigarette he had used revealed the presence of synthetic cannabis. The young man had a history of using e-cigarettes for many years and had previously been hospitalized for e-cigarette poisoning in 2023.

Dr Nguyen Trung Nguyen, Director of the Poison Control Center said: "Many tests on patients' e-cigarettes have returned positive results for drugs."

A survey conducted by the Poison Control Center on e-cigarette samples used by 120 patients revealed that 16 of these samples tested positive for drugs, accounting for 13.3%. Toxicology tests on some specimens sent to the forensic institute detected drugs including ADB-Butinaca, MDMB-Butinaca, ADB-4en-PINACA, MDMB-4en-PINACA, EDMB-4en-PINACA, THC and PB-22.

Many people, especially teenagers, believe that e-cigarettes are harmless because they do not contain addictive nicotine.

"This is a misconception. E-cigarettes pose three major health risks: nicotine, artificial flavorings and drugs. Currently, the treatment costs for acute poisoning cases from drug-laced e-cigarettes range from over VND10 million to hundreds of millions of dong," Nguyen said.

"E-cigarettes, heated tobacco products and other new types of tobacco are harmful to health. They pave the way for abuse, addiction and exposure to synthetic chemicals, leading to numerous new diseases and health issues. They also complicate the problems associated with traditional tobacco and drugs. Therefore, it is crucial not to evaluate, research or experiment with these products," he said.

Nguyen Thi An, Director of HealthBridge Canada in Vietnam, said that e-cigarette products could now be easily purchased through social media platforms like Facebook and e-commerce sites.

She said that with colleagues they had tried ordering e-cigarettes themselves and when the package arrived, it was labeled as 'anti-acne cosmetics' as a way for children to easily deceive their parents and teachers.

"In our research, when we asked why students used e-cigarette products, 60% said they started because their friends shared them. With a product costing only around VND10,000, students can easily share and use it in class as it is very affordable. They can buy these new-generation tobacco products by skipping just one breakfast," she said.

An also noted that these products were incredibly easy to purchase, convenient and accessible at any time, even being sold as toys at drink stalls right outside school gates.

"That’s why we always emphasize that if new tobacco products are only banned for children under 18, it is a failure. Products labeled as 'milk' are clearly targeting children. Moreover, e-cigarettes with appealing flavors are obviously aimed at children."

From an economic perspective, An pointed out that allowing new tobacco products would not provide any economic benefit and, in the long run, negatively impact the health of future generations.

A survey showed that in 2019, the rate of new tobacco product use among 13- to 17-year-olds was 2.6%. This rate increased to 3.5% in 2022 and 7% in 2023. Specifically, among 13- to 15-year-olds, the 2023 survey indicated a usage rate of up to 8%.

According to reports from nearly 700 healthcare facilities, in 2023 alone, there were over 1,200 hospitalizations due to the use of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products. The primary symptoms upon admission were allergies, poisoning and acute lung damage.

Experts have proposed an urgent ban on the import, production, distribution and sale of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products, as well as banning advertising and promotion of these products in Vietnam.

In the long term, regulations regarding e-cigarettes should be incorporated into the revised Law on Prevention and Control of Tobacco Harm, they said.

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