Prescription Drugs Showing Up in E-Cigarettes: Health Experts Not Surprised

The Food and Drug Administration, FDA, recently called the e-cigarette trend sweeping the nation an “epidemic” according to Healthline. A 2016 report from the United States Surgeon General revealed a mind-boggling 900 percent increase in e-cigarette usage among high school students from 2011 to 2015. And, teens aren’t the only ones vaping. Adults, searching for smoking cessation options, often turn to e-cigarettes.

While vaping has soared in popularity, the industry has been largely left unregulated. As a result, a little-known company has been successful in slipping prescription drugs into the liquid customers of its e-cigarettes inhale. The company’s misdeeds became known when the FDA sent it a letter on October 11, 2018.

The FDA claims HelloCig, which refers to itself as a producer and seller of e-cigarettes “headquartered in the beautiful City of China,” has been incorporating Cialis into some of its products. Cialis is an anti-erectile dysfunction medication. Besides Cialis, HelloCig is also charged with including Acomplia, a banned anti-obesity drug, in its product offerings.

Interestingly, HelloCig hasn’t tried to hide these added ingredients. In fact, the company markets the products with pictures of the prescription bottles. HelloCig even proclaims, falsely, that its products have been approved by the FDA. All of these unscrupulous actions are clear violations of United States law. The FDA says HelloCig products are shipped to the United States where people without prescriptions for those medicines might vape the drugs and suffer serious health ramifications.

Health advocates believe HelloCig’s actions are indicative of the larger state of the vaping industry. Dennis Henigan, vice president of legal and regulatory affairs at the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids said, “Given how out of control this industry has been, I guess it was just a matter of time before we saw something like this.”

Henigan confided that the nature of e-cigarettes’ design makes them vulnerable for the addition of unexpected ingredients such as prescription drugs. He noted, “It’s one of the unique aspects of e-cigarettes that they can be a mechanism for all kinds of substances into the body.” Henigan said that people often use cannabis with the devices. Reportedly, you can purchase e-cigarettes with ecstasy, cocaine, and other illegal drugs online.

The FDA is giving HelloCig a November 1, 2018 deadline to fix the flagrant mislabeling, misuse, and other violations surrounding its e-cigarettes. Otherwise, the company might face possible criminal prosecution, fines, and other penalties such as the seizure or refusal of entry of its imported products.

The producer of Cialis, Eli Lilly, stated, “Counterfeit drugs pose a very real risk to patients, and patient safety is Lilly’s number one concern.” In addition to penning the letter to HelloCig, the FDA has also recently written warning letters and initiated a campaign shining a spotlight on the tempting flavors of e-cigarettes that companies appear to be marketing to children. For instance, some of these products look like Warheads candy, Tree Top juice boxes, and Golden Oreo cookies.

Erika Sward, assistant vice president of National Advocacy for the American Lung Association, informed Healthline that the rapid expansion of vaping products has created a market where there’s something for everyone. She said, “While some might have unapproved prescription drugs in their liquids, others have other chemicals that aren’t even known.”

The concerned health advocate went on to say, “This situation speaks to the need for real and meaningful oversight by the FDA of all e-cigarettes. This manufacturer got caught. We don’t know about what people who are maybe doing similar things are up to and who are not being caught.”

Misconceptions about e-cigarettes abound. Michael Blaha M.D. M.P.H., director of clinical research at the John Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease says vaping is less harmful than traditional smoking. However, because e-cigarettes contain nicotine, they’re both still detrimental to your health and just as addictive as traditional cigarettes.

Even worse, due to a lack of research, no one knows how vaping will affect their health in years to come. Unfortunately, e-cigarettes’ lack of smell makes them appealing to kids and adults.

Blaha contends, “What I find most concerning about the rise of vaping is that people who would’ve never smoked otherwise, especially youth, are taking up the habit. It’s one thing if you convert from cigarette smoking to vaping. It’s quite another thing to start up nicotine use with vaping.”

Vaping may also increase your odds of turning to traditional cigarettes later. With the threat of getting prescription drug laced e-cigarettes or becoming helplessly addicted to a product that may negatively affect your health in unknown ways in the future, avoiding e-cigarettes at all cost is best.


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