The first known death directly related to vaping has been reported in Illinois. State health officials reported the death on August 23, 2019, and did not offer any further details regarding the person involved. In another disturbing development, reports of respiratory problems associated with vaping and resulting in hospitalizations have doubled in the last seven days.
Growing Number of Vaping Injury Cases
This report comes after a series of recent Juul related injuries. One teenage boy suffered a collapsed lung after repeated use of the Juul e-cigarette. CNBC is now investigating over two hundred cases of severe lung disease that have been linked to vaping.
Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) chief medical examiner Dr. Jennifer Layden confirmed the death and added that the person had been admitted to a hospital with severe respiratory symptoms linked to vaping. Speaking to a group of federal health officials during a press conference, Layden said the state was working with other local health departments, along with the FDA and CDC, to investigate both devices and products used by the currently ill patients. In all, 22 people have developed respiratory problems after vaping or using e-cigarettes such as Juul. The IDPH is looking into another 12 cases that may also be related to vaping.
The director of the IDPH, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, said that the number and severity of the illnesses were “alarming,” and that it is crucial to warn the public about the dangers of vaping. He added that a team from the CDC was scheduled to arrive in a few days. The CDC itself reported 193 cases of vaping-related illness in 22 states. All of those cases occurred over a period of six weeks between late June and mid-August of 2019.
The Risk of Vaping
Age is not a factor in the reported cases of respiratory distress. Patients have ranged from teens to those well into middle age. The symptoms of fatigue, shortness of breath and coughing are all directly related to e-cigarettes and vaping. In some cases, patients had to go on ventilators in order to breathe. Dr. Albert Rizzo of the American Lung Association cautioned that the lung illnesses were not tied to any specific product or device but only to the act of vaping.
Dr. Karen Wilson of Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City said respiratory problems are linked to an inflammatory process that allows the lungs to become full of fluid. There is no infection involved, which has led doctors to find another cause of the irritation. Wilson was made aware of vaping-related lung illnesses in July when a teenage boy she knew personally was admitted to the ICU with breathing problems after using e-cigarettes. The boy’s condition has improved and he is expected to make a full recovery. Wilson said that while most young people recover, there is no way to know if there will be long-term effects on the lungs, such as asthma.
Dr. Rizzo explained that the vapor produced by e-cigarettes has several ingredients that can irritate the lungs. The most common ones are heavy metals, oils, and ultrafine particles. Vapor can also have diacetyl, which is a chemical known to cause “popcorn lung.” When this occurs, the air sacs in the lungs develop scarring, causing the airways to narrow and thicken, interfering in the breathing process. The condition gets its name from lung ailments that developed after workers in a factory inhaled the butter-flavored diacetyl used on microwave popcorn.
Rizzo added that the excessive nicotine levels in e-cigarettes may also cause respiratory symptoms, stating that a common brand has the same amount of nicotine as an entire pack of standard cigarettes. He said that most people cannot smoke a whole pack of cigarettes in just 15 minutes. With vaping, a complete pod can be ingested in that same amount of time, making the habit very addictive and dangerous.
Marijuana use was noted as a possible factor in vaping-related illnesses. The CDC reported that some patients who were hospitalized for respiratory distress after using e-cigarettes said they had recently used marijuana products. This was confirmed by health care staff while the patients were in the hospital or during a follow-up visit later on. Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is a chemical in marijuana that gives users a “high” after smoking or ingestion. It is known to cause lung irritation in regular users, resulting in a chronic cough and phlegm production.
Preventing Vaping Injuries
Dr. Wilson said the best prevention comes from parents to ensure their teens are not using e-cigarettes. Parents should also refrain from vaping themselves to set the best example and not expose their children to secondhand vapor. She added that teens and young adults should not have any access to vaping products because they are not safe and may cause serious, lifelong health problems when used on a regular basis.
Are You Suffering Respiratory Problems From E-cigarettes?
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- Dennis Thompson. “First Death Tied to Lung Injury From Vaping Reported in Illinois”, WebMD, https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/news/20190823/first-death-tied-to-lung-injury-from-vaping-reported-in-illinois#1. Accessed August 25, 2019.