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Vape, e-cigarette emergencies surge five-fold over 4 years, says poison centre
By Predeep Nambiar | 27 Mar 2024, 05:13 PM

NPC’s chief pharmacist officer Sulastri Samsudin says a significant number of cases involve teenagers.

National Poison Centre chief pharmacist Sulastri Samsudin said 111 vape emergency cases had been referred to the NPC since 2015.

PETALING JAYA: Vape or e-cigarette emergencies have shot up five-fold in four years, with a large number of cases involving teenagers.

National Poison Centre (NPC) chief pharmacist Sulastri Samsudin said the major concern involved those aged 15 to 19, with most exhibiting high toxicity symptoms from vaping.

“They are typically trying out vaping for the first time, or through peer pressure. We are alarmed,” she told FMT.

Earlier, the NPC released a report calling on the government to pass laws to regulate and prevent children from vaping.

The NPC, based at Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang, is the country’s only poisoning-related referral centre for healthcare professionals as well as the lay public.

According to Sulastri, 111 vape emergency cases had been referred to the NPC since 2015.

She said six cases were reported that year, followed by one case in 2016. However, she said, there was a spike of 22 cases during the movement control order in 2021.

Last year witnessed another surge to 34 cases, she added.

The majority of these cases involved children under five, likely due to unsafe storage and accessible packaging of e-cigarette liquids, which often include appealing food and sweet-like flavours.

Over 95% of reported cases showed symptoms consistent with nicotine poisoning, such as severe vomiting, drowsiness, diarrhoea, stomach ache, fainting and seizures, Sulastri said.

Severe cases also included psychosis, hallucinations and aggressive behaviour – some of which may be due to diluting the e-liquid with other intoxicating substances.

“Since 2021, there have been 23 cases linked to so-called magic mushrooms, or the active ingredient psilocybin. This is based on our chats with those who are admitted to the hospital.

“Without any regulation or control of e-cigarettes or vape, the NPC could not confirm the exact content,” she said.

“The majority of calls to the NPC are referral cases from public hospitals, so our numbers are merely the tip of the iceberg.

“Most people suffering from adverse effects from vape or e-cigarettes will head to the hospital first,” she said.

Sulastri said the government must implement the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Act 2024 quickly, adding that there were a range of measures that should be taken, including making vaping off limits to children.

Keratan Akhbar

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