Vaping leads to more hospitalizations

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Federal health officials say more cases of a mysterious lung illness associated with vaping have been reported. The CDC and the FDA say as of August 27th, 215 possible cases have been reported in 25 states, but more cases are under investigation.

WEAU Health Correspondent Dr. Alicia Arnold sat down with Tyler Mickelson to talk about the problem. Their Q&A can be found below.

Vaping was first introduced as an alternative to smoking, why can it be dangerous?

Dr. Alicia Arnold, “Patients are experiencing what we call a chemical pneumonitis, or severe inflammation of the lungs. This is caused by inhaling an irritating substance. If people are using cartridges containing THC, there could be unknown and unsafe substances that have the potential to harm your lungs. For example, it is possible that oil droplets in the vapor are being inhaled and contributing to these breathing problems. So far, there is not one specific product linked to all the cases. Patients have needed to be in the intensive care unit with breathing tubes and machines helping them to breathe. Deaths have been reported.

It sounds like health officials are still learning a lot about these serious reactions. Are there any recent scientific studies that might help us understand why people are getting so sick?

Dr. Alicia Arnold, “There was actually a study just released yesterday in the Journal of Clinical Investigation that looked at mice who were exposed to e-cigarette vapors and found that even without nicotine, the vapors harmed the lungs’ immune system response. So there’s still a lot to learn about the health risks with vaping, and I expect that we will see more studies coming out in the near future.”

Most of the illnesses reported have been with teens. Are they more susceptible?

Dr. Alicia Arnold, “Most of the people who are vaping are young people. About 20 percent of teens report vaping, so statistically many young people are being exposed to the effects of vaping. Many more teens are using e-cigarettes as opposed to traditional cigarettes.”

Most of the problems have come from users buying products on the street. Are regulated vaping items safer?

Dr. Alicia Arnold, “Even in regulated products, nicotine is addictive and can also contribute to memory and attention problems in teens. E-liquids can contain heavy metals such as lead and also other substances that have been linked to lung disease. Also, since e-cigarettes are relatively new, scientists haven’t had enough time to study the long-term effects of these devices. So there could be other risks that we aren’t even aware of yet.”