Philippines records 1st vape-related death

31 May 2024

By Sherylin Untalan, GMA Integrated News

A 22-year-old Filipino male died of a heart attack following a severe lung injury, which is linked to his daily vape usage for two years, the Department of Health said Friday. 

In a media forum, DOH Assistant Secretary Albert Domingo stressed that e-cigarettes and vaping elevated the risk of acute myocardial infarction and stroke.

Domingo said the young man with no known comorbidities was brought to the emergency room in 2023. 

This was based on the research study published in the Respirology Case Reports journal of the Asian Pacific Society of Respirology by Dr. Margarita Isabel Fernandez and several doctors of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH). 

“DOH and PGH raises warning on vape as it cites first Filipino death. Bente-dos anyos na namatay sa heart attack. Ang pinaka striking sa kasong ito ‘yung kaniyang heart attack, wala siyang risk factors maliban sa araw-araw siyang nagva-vape for the past two years bago siya atakihin sa puso,” he said.

(A 22-year-old died due to a heart attack. What was striking in this case was he had no risk factors except that he has been vaping for the past two years before he had a heart attack.)

Based on the study, the victim had a two-day history of sudden onset severe chest pain after sports activity associated with dyspnea, diaphoresis, and myalgia. A one-week history of productive cough, hemoptysis, fever, and vomiting preceded this. 

“Dalawang arteries sa kaniyang puso ang nabarahan. ‘Yung kaniyang lungs merong consolidation ibig sabihin, nagdikit-dikit ‘yung loob ng lungs niya,” Domingo noted. 

(Two of the arteries of his heart were blocked. There was also consolidation on his lungs.)

The study further stressed that the 22-year-old denied a history of cigarette smoking, alcohol intake, or illicit drug use. The patient had no prior infection with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). 

According to Dr. Riz Gonzales of the Philippine Pediatric Society Tobacco and Nicotine Control Advocacy Group, the said case was only among the six recorded EVALI cases as of May 2024. 

“This one is a 22 year old male, healthy, sporty, walang bisyo. Pumunta sa PGH kasi sumisikip ang dibdib tapos may ubo. Pagkita sa lungs niya, puti, ‘yung tinatawag nating white out lung. In layman’s term, pwede nating sabihin na parang nabura ‘yung clear lungs niya kasi binara nung mga vape chemicals,” said Dr. Gonzales.

(This one is a 22 year old male, healthy, sporty, has no vices. He went to PGH because his chest was tight and was coughing. Upon seeing his lungs, it’s all white, which we call—white out lung. In layman’s terms, we can say that his clear lungs were erased because they were blocked by the vape chemicals.)

This year, another case was also recorded in Alabang, a 22-year-old previous smoker who shifted to vaping.

Based on the Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS), 14% or 1 in every seven students aged 13-15 years old is already using e-cigarettes daily— an age group younger than what is allowed by existing laws.

One major factor in the increase is easy access, as 77.1% of youth users bought such products from stores, stops, street vendors, or kiosks. 

Currently, vape products can even be easily bought. These are also promoted online as an alternative to smoking, claiming that these are healthier and safer. 

Many are marketed as toys, school supplies, and confectionery in fruity flavors. 

“Pag nagva-vape tayo, nauusukan ‘yung baga ‘yung pinapasukan ng oxygen, nahaharangan. Kaya mga kabataan, nakakasira ng puso ang vape, ‘di ba. ‘Yung puso ninyo, okay lang masaktan ng pag-ibig pero ‘wag ninyong saktan nang vape ang gamit,” Domingo reminded the youth. 

(When we are vaping, the lungs where the oxygen enters are injected with smoke, it is being blocked. So to our youth, vaping damages our hearts, right? Your hearts, it’s okay to be hurt by love, but don’t hurt your heart with vape.)

In line with World No Tobacco Day, health experts gathered on Friday to call on the public to protect children from tobacco industry interference. 

DOH is aiming to raise the legal age of vape consumption from 18 to 21 by amending the Vape Law and enacting the Tobacco Illicit Trade Bill compliant with FCTC standards.

Along with its partner agencies and non-government health organizations, the Health Department also aims to mitigate the demand and supply of such products and strengthen its regulations by increasing vape taxes to equalize the rate of traditionally manufactured tobacco.

At the recent ASEAN Workshop on Protecting Children from Tobacco Industry Interference, held in Bangkok, Thailand, Asian youth leaders reiterated the need for governments to work with the youth to effectively protect them from the tobacco industry.

 “A truly healthy and sustainable future has no space for the tobacco industry and its harmful products. Governments must listen to the youth and work with them, harnessing their talents and passion as we fight this important battle for the health of all. Governments must stop listening to and engaging with the tobacco industry and its front groups, as we strive to build a tobacco-free future for our children and teens,” said Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance executive director Dr. Ulysses Dorotheo. —AOL, GMA Integrated News