British Columbia

First probable case of vaping-related illness confirmed in B.C.

B.C.'s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, has confirmed the first probable case of vaping-related illness in the province and says there may be more. Several other investigations are underway.

Provincial health officer says several other potential cases are under investigation

'These are the first cases of vaping-related illness in B.C., but we fully expect there will be more,' said Dr. Bonnie Henry in a statement. (Robert F. Bukaty/The Associated Press)

B.C.'s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, has confirmed the first probable case of vaping-related illness in the province and says there may be more. 

Henry told CBC the patient is a young person who was using nicotine-based vaping products, and they have recovered from their illness.

"This is just another indication that vaping itself is not innocuous," Henry said. "This is a whole new generation of young people that are becoming addicted to nicotine."

As of Sept. 19, all physicians in the province are required to report observations of patients who may be affected by vaping-related illness. A total of seven potential patients have been identified so far, including the confirmed case and two that have been ruled out.

The illness is an inflammation of the lungs, with symptoms that include coughing, shortness of breath and chest pain. Potential cases are people who report using e-cigarettes and other vaping devices, whose illnesses have not been attributed to another cause, and whose X-rays show pulmonary infiltrates — substances like pus or blood lingering in the lung tissue.

Doctors don't yet know exactly what is causing the disease, which has affected more than 1,000 people in the U.S. and has been linked to 26 deaths there.

Henry said there's no test doctors can use to link an illness to vaping, calling the process of identifying cases as "a diagnosis of exclusion."

Cases reported in Quebec, New Brunswick

Last month, Health Canada issued a public warning and asked provincial health officials to report possible cases. The first confirmed instance was reported in Quebec at the end of September, and New Brunswick has seen two probable cases. 

Henry said there's no clear roadmap to recovery for patients with vaping-related illness, but treatments like oxygen, intubation and steroids have helped some people.

As teen vaping numbers continue to rise, Henry said she supports policies like bans on flavoured vape products that have been implemented in some parts of the U.S.

"We do want to look at ensuring that the regulations are strong, that it keeps them away from young people, and makes them less available to the young people," she said.

Alberta will consider adding rules for vaping when it reviews the province's smoking and tobacco legislation next month and Yukon recently announced it is raising the age for access to tobacco and vapour products to 19 years old from 18, as well as proposing further limits on how vaping products can be used and promoted.

A survey done for Health Canada that was published this year found that one-fifth of high school aged students reported using vaping products, as well as one-seventh of children aged 13 and 14.


With files from the Canadian Press