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WHO’s Tweet About Vaping Causing Epilepsy Draws Fire

WHO claims vaping can cause seizures within 24 hours not backed by scientific research

The World Health Organization has come under fire in the past two days for claiming that vaping can cause epileptic seizures within hours. The WHO’s statement is based on about 120 incidents since 2019, but it has not yet provided conclusive results.


The WHO cited a 2020 Journal of Adolescent Health criticism of a 2019 study that analyzed a series of 122 seizures and other neurological symptoms in people who reported vaping in the past 24 hours. Researchers believe that nicotine may be responsible for epileptic seizures and symptoms due to its proconvulsant effects (meaning it can cause convulsions).


The analysis article points out that the details of the study raise questions about causation that must be taken into account when assessing the actual health risks of nicotine smoking in young people.


The article adds: “A big question is why nicotine inhaled from a vape causes epileptic seizures, but nicotine inhaled from a traditional cigarette does not.” The authors suggest that a person would need to inhale a very large dose of nicotine to cause epilepsy attacks, but the nicotine content in the vape device is much less than traditional cigarettes.


Furthermore, the toxic effects of large doses of nicotine are expected to occur within minutes of inhalation and resolve within hours—the authors stated that “seizures appear unlikely in the absence of other manifestations of systemic toxicity.”


Experts call on WHO to provide evidence or delete tweet

The global health agency took to Twitter to fact-check users, prompting the social platform to issue a community note.


The note said: “This article is based on inconclusive evidence using research that has not been peer-reviewed.


Brooklyn-based developmental neurobiologist Dr. Charles Gardner tweeted: “Please provide peer-reviewed evidence supporting the claim that vaping causes seizures “usually within 24 hours” if You can’t do this, please delete your tweet. Note: I searched the literature and could not find a single study showing a higher risk of seizures.”


In most cases, these events are not evaluated by medical professionals. The authors of the article noted at the time that nicotine can cause anxiety attacks and involuntary muscle contractions that some people may interpret as epileptic seizures, even though this is not the case.


“Pretty sure this is nonsense,” said Steve Rawls, senior policy analyst at the Transforming Drug Policy Foundation, a drug policy reform group. Why is the World Health Organization’s stance on vaping so strangely inconsistent?


Other users called the WHO a clown, a liar and claimed it was conducting propaganda. The criticisms come as the organization seeks to regain public confidence, especially after what many saw as a botched response to the coronavirus. In the early months of the pandemic, it recommended against wearing masks and many scientists criticized the world. The WHO is unwilling to admit that the coronavirus is spread through the air and from people without symptoms.


Additionally, the WHO released a report in 2021 concluding that COVID-19 likely jumped from animals to humans, denying the possibility that it originated in a laboratory, which multiple government agencies agreed with theory. The WHO backtracked the following year, saying “critical data” was still missing and it was too early to rule out a possible link between the coronavirus and the laboratory. The WHO is still working hard to win back public trust.

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