THE FIRST reported case of a lung problem linked to smoking e-cigarettes in the country involved a 16-year old girl, the Department of Health (DoH) announced on Friday.

In a statement, the DoH said a private pediatric pulmonologist based in Central Visayas reported the case to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“The patient, who was admitted last October 21, initially presented with sudden-onset severe shortness of breath, required oxygen supplementation and ICU admission. Upon admission, the clinical impression was initially considered to be infectious in nature. However, upon further evaluation, the patient met the case criteria for EVALI, based on the guidelines of the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC),” DoH said.

The patient was reportedly on a “dual use” of e-cigarettes and combustible cigarettes for six months.

She has been discharged from the hospital, but the DoH continues to monitor her case.

The DoH has been campaigning against e-cigarettes and vape, especially among the underaged population.

In June, the DoH released Administrative Order (AO) 2019-0007 regulating the use, distribution, selling, and manufacturing of e-cigarettes and vapes, including a prohibition on sales to minors.

The implementation of the AO, however, is currently suspended after an injunction was issued by two local courts based on a petition by industry stakeholders.

DoH Undersecretary Rolando Enrique D. Domingo, in a separate statement, said these these legal issues need to be resolved immediately.

“Without regulation, there is little that stands in the way of unscrupulous persons wanting to take advantage of our policy situation for financial gain. There is very little deterrent to creating e-cigarette products that do not conform to basic safety standards,” he said. — Gillian M. Cortez