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What you need to know about recent cases of severe respiratory illnesses linked to vaping.

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Vaping, or the use of e-cigarettes, has been promoted by product manufacturers as a safer alternative to smoking. But more and more evidence is pointing to how dangerous the habit may be.

In recent years, concern focused on the growing epidemic of vaping among teens and young adults. The use of e-cigarettes among high school students, and even middle school students, has exploded. Many of these teens are becoming addicted to nicotine as they are wooed by sleek designs, candy-flavored vaping liquid and the belief that vaping is not as dangerous as smoking. Some are vaping liquids containing THC, the chemical in marijuana that makes you high.

“Vaping is a dangerous new epidemic that has been sweeping the country especially in teens and young adults, and now, the Center for Disease Control is investigating if vaping is the cause of over 200 cases of severe lung disease as well as 2 deaths over the past few months. Here in Louisiana, there have been 9 reported cases of suspected vaping-related lung disease in just the past 2 weeks.”

-Mindy L. Calandro, MD, FAAP, Pediatric Medicine 

Now there are fears that these are not the only dangers of vaping. The use of e-cigarettes has recently been linked to serious lung illnesses in otherwise healthy people. As of early September 2019, six people have died after developing severe respiratory illnesses believed to be linked to vaping. More than 450 similar illnesses have been reported throughout the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most of the cases involve teens and young adults, with the average age of victims being 19 according to the Washington Post.

The illnesses appear to share a similar set of symptoms, primarily severe coughing and shortness of breath. Chest pain, fever, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and fatigue may also accompany the pneumonia-like symptoms. In some cases symptoms have developed gradually, while in others they appeared rather suddenly.

The exact cause of these illnesses and deaths is still unclear – and all cases do not involve the same vaping products – but the incidence of these similar symptoms in people who use e-cigarettes has heightened concern over the dangers of vaping. Although the specific cause and effect of how vaping affects your lungs are not yet known, public officials are urging people to stop vaping or to avoid starting in the first place while the investigation into what is causing this mysterious lung illness is completed and more is known about the dangers of vaping.

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Date Last Reviewed: September 9, 2019

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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