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Alberta’s first severe vaping-related illness

Alberta health officials are reminding residents that vaping is not without risk following the province’s first confirmed case of severe vaping-associated illness, which is the 15th confirmed case in the country.

Alberta’s chief medical officer confirmed in an Alberta Health release that the patient has “received treatment and is recovering at home.” Additional details won’t be released to protect patient confidentiality.

“We are actively monitoring the situation in Alberta and working with health officials across Canada to share information and better understand this illness, “Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said.

“I want to remind all Albertans that vaping has health risks, and the only way to completely avoid these risks is by not vaping.”

Alberta Health said that vaping is “not without risk and the long-term health impacts remain unknown… Anytime you breathe unknown substances into your lungs, it can have health impacts.”

In September 2019, Hinshaw named the severe vaping-associated lung illness a “notifiable condition under the Public Health Act, requiring Alberta physicians to report potential cases to public health officials.” Since then, all “adverse events” have been investigated using the case definition being used across Canada.

Last fall, the provincial government launched a review of Alberta’s Tobacco and Smoking Reduction Act, “exploring ways to better protect Albertans from the harms of tobacco, vaping, and tobacco-like products, including the rise in teen vaping.” A final report is expected to be provided to the Minister of Health Tyler Shandro is the coming weeks. Alberta is waiting for the review of the Act before allowing cannabis vapes into the province.

Alberta is the latest province to ban cannabis vape products, with Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador making the decision earlier in 2019.

Quebec announced the ban in November after “many health problems recently discovered in the US.”

Newfoundland and Labrador won’t be allowing the introduction of cannabis vape products in the province at this time, but the government has committed to review the decision in light of any clinical evidence.

Last fall, the Public Health Agency of Canada alerted provincial health officials and asked them to report “any probable and confirmed cases as part of the national investigation underway.”

The Government of Canada says that while the cause of vaping-associated lung illness is still under investigation, Canadians “concerned about the health risks related to vaping should consider refraining from using vaping products.”

Vaping products, according to the federal government, may contain dozens of chemicals and “most vaping substances available for sale are flavoured and contain nicotine.”