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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is investigating a possible link between vaping and seizures. Between 2010 and 2019, the Agency identified 35 cases of seizures, averaging fewer than four per year. A recent U.S. study found that 10.8 million adults currently vape. In its announcement, the FDA described a “slight but noticeable increase in reports of seizures” since June, however, this may be due to the increasing popularity of e-cigarettes and vaping in general. As of now, the Agency is unclear as to whether or not a link between the two exists. The 35 seizures were initially voluntarily reported either to the FDA itself, or to poison control centers. Because there may be more incidents of vaping-related seizures than has been previously reported – the FDA is asking anyone experiencing any vaping seizures to report it via the FDA’s Safety Reporting Portal.

There is no direct link or clear pattern between vaping and seizures as of yet. Seizures were reported by both first-time users and experienced vapers. Some of those who experienced seizures after vaping had reported a prior history of seizures, and some had used other drugs, such as marijuana, or amphetamines prior to the occurrence. Some vapers experienced seizures after just a few inhales, and others did not experience the seizures until up to 24 hours later.

Nicotine poisoning is known to cause seizures, according to the FDA. A 2009 Harvard study of epilepsy patients also discovered a higher risk of seizure in current smokers, regardless of the number of cigarettes they smoked – but the longer patients smoked, the higher their risk for seizures. Dr. Barbara Dworetzky, one of the authors of the study, reported the “ risk of seizure was significantly higher for current smokers”.

Use of amphetamines is also known to cause seizures, and the Mayo Clinic reported that “smoking cessation therapies” are known to “lower the seizure threshold” as well, meaning they don’t necessarily cause seizures themselves, but are more likely to trigger seizures in those who are predisposed to them.

Because e-cigarettes were invented to help wean traditional smokers off cigarettes, some vapes contain high levels of nicotine. You should always vape the lowest nicotine level you’re comfortable with, and gradually step down in nicotine level as you use e-cigarettes to quit smoking.

Seizures are caused by sudden, atypical electrical activity in a person’s brain. Though often associated with full-body convulsions, these do not always occur. According to the FDA, “Other possible signs of seizures include a lapse in awareness or consciousness, which may look like a person is staring blankly into space for a few seconds or suddenly stops moving. The person may or may not fall down. Most seizures end in a few seconds or minutes, and the person may seem fine, sleepy, confused or have a headache afterwards. They may not remember what they were doing or what happened right before the seizure.”

Seizures themselves do not generally cause permanent damage, however, they do require immediate medical attention – so that health care professionals can discover the underlying cause and prevent future seizures from occurring.

If you believe a person is having a seizure, always call 911 and seek immediate medical attention.

No particular brand or sub-brand was directly connected to the seizures according to the FDA’s announcement, because the reports the Agency received did not initially contain that information.

The FDA is attempting to gather data to determine if there is in fact a link between vaping and seizures, and gather information about potential risk factors. If you’ve ever experienced vaping seizures, even if you have a prior history of seizures, please report it to the FDA.

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