World Health Organization slammed by fact-checkers for claiming vaping can cause a seizure within 24 hours

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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The World Health Organization was slammed last night for claiming vaping can lead to a seizure within hours. 

The global health agency was fact checked on X by users, prompting the social platform to post a Community Note. 

The note said: ‘This post is based on inconclusive evidence utilizing studies that have not been peer reviewed. 

‘The claim is based on approximately 120 incidents that occurred since 2019 with an inconclusive outcome.’

The World Health Organization published the above tweet on Monday

X's Community Notes quickly added the claim in WHO's tweet had been called into question by users

X’s Community Notes quickly added the claim in WHO’s tweet had been called into question by users

Dr Charles Gardner, a Brooklyn-based developmental neurobiologist, tweeted: ‘Please provide peer-reviewed evidence for this claim that vaping causes seizures “typically within 24 hours.” 

‘If you cannot do this, then please delete your tweet. NOTE: I have searched the literature and cannot find one study showing higher risk of seizures.’ 

Steve Rolles, a senior policy analyst for Transform Drug Policy Foundation – a drug policy reform organization, said: ‘Pretty sure this is nonsense. Why is the WHO’s position on vaping so weirdly misaligned?’ 

Other users called the WHO clowns, liars and claimed it was promoting propaganda.

The fresh wave of criticism comes as the organization is still trying to win back public trust after what many deem was a botched response from the WHO to the Covid pandemic.

It advised against wearing masks for months at the start of the pandemic and numerous scientists have slammed WHO’s reluctance to acknowledge Covid was frequently spread in the air and by people without symptoms.

Additionally, WHO released a report in 2021 concluding COVID-19 most likely jumped from animals to humans, dismissing the possibility it originated in a lab, a theory multiple government agencies subscribe to. 

But the organization backtracked the following year, saying ‘key pieces of data’ were still missing and it was premature to rule out Covid might have ties to a lab.

The community note on X included a link to an editorial on vaping and seizures. 

The 2020 editorial in the Journal of Adolescent Health critiqued a 2019 study that analyzed a series of 122 seizures and other neurological symptoms among people who had reported vaping in the previous 24 hours. 

The study researchers suggested because of its proconvulsant effects – meaning it could lead to convulsions – nicotine may be responsible for the seizures and symptoms. 

However, the editorial said details of the study ‘raise questions about a causal link, which needs to be considered in assessing the actual health threat of nicotine vaping for youth.’ 

A study published this week linked vaping to health effects like asthma, pneumonia, and bronchitis. However, smoking has long been associated with severe health consequences like lung cancer and heart disease

A study published this week linked vaping to health effects like asthma, pneumonia, and bronchitis. However, smoking has long been associated with severe health consequences like lung cancer and heart disease

It added: ‘A big question is why nicotine inhaled from e-cigarettes should cause seizures, whereas nicotine from conventional cigarettes does not.’ 

The authors said a person would need to inhale a very large dose of nicotine in order to elicit a seizure, but the amount of the substance in a vaping device is much less compared to that in a traditional cigarette. 

Additionally, the toxic effects from a large intake of nicotine would be expected to occur within minutes of inhalation and resolve within several hours – and the authors said ‘it seems unlikely that seizures would appear without other manifestations of systemic toxicity.’

A shortcoming of the 2019 study, the editorial said, was that it analyzed seizure ‘events’ that were self-reported and not always clear. 

Descriptions differed, with some reporting severe episodes and others detailing shaking or seizure-like activity. 

In most cases, the events were not evaluated by medical professionals. 

The authors of the editorial noted nicotine can cause anxiety attacks and involuntary muscle contractions that some people may interpret as seizures even though they are not. 

Vaping has been touted as a safer alternative to cigarettes and is often used as a smoking cessation tool.

However, the devices do not come without their risks. 

A major review earlier this year found it can raise your risk of eight lung diseases – asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchitis, several forms of pneumonia and popcorn lung, or damage of the lungs’ small airways.

Smoking traditional cigarettes has long been associated with deadly conditions like lung cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke – for which the survival rates are much lower.

Rates of smoking traditional cigarettes have declined while vaping rates have gone up – especially among middle and high schoolers. 

A 2023 CDC analysis found 2.1million of these kids – nearly eight percent of the student body – were using the devices and 47 percent of children who had ever tried an e-cigarette currently vaped. 

Vapes often have appealing flavors like cotton candy and crème brulee and have packaging that appeals to younger users. 

This has hooked millions of young people, with data showing about 90 percent of them have reported using a fruit or candy-flavored product. 

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