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vaping and the potential health effects

What you need to know about the lung illnesses attributed to vaping

Following a recent outbreak of breathing problems and hospitalisations

There’s recently been a spate of vaping-related hospitalisations in the US, with people (primarily teens) suffering from respiratory problems. Theres previously been a lot of debate about whether vapes reduce real smoking rates or act as a gateway to cigarettes, but it’s only recently that they’ve been firmly linked to actual illnesses.

It’s a pretty big deal too, if they are causing lung illnesses as it seems. Nearly one in five high school students admitted to smoking vapes in 2018, according to a report by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

Here’s what you need to know.

THE ILLNESSES ARE MORE WIDESPREAD THAN PREVIOUSLY THOUGHT

Yesterday (August 30), the Washington Post reported that up to 354 possible cases related to vaping are currently under investigation. That’s nearly double the amount that the CDC reported last week (94). Also, though the cases are inside the US, they are relatively widespread, spanning 29 states.

BUT THE CAUSES ARE STILL A BIT OF A MYSTERY

Reportedly, authorities are focusing on “contaminants or counterfeit substances” as a potential cause. Specifically, they seem to have narrowed it down to adulterants in vapes containing THC and nicotine. Apparently, the chemicals brought to light in the investigation can “vary a lot” however, especially in unofficial products and DIY “home brews”, making them difficult to pin down. Nothing’s concrete just yet. An infectious disease causing the illnesses has been called unlikely though, since patients don’t often respond to antibiotics.

THERE’S A RANGE OF SYMPTOMS

Patients have reported suffering from sickness, chest pains, and difficulty breathing. However, in the worst cases, there has also been “severe lung damage that required weeks of treatment in the intensive care units”, the New York Times reports.

Last week, what is being classed as the first vaping-related death was in the news. A teenager or young man in Illinois passed away following a “severe respiratory disease” tied by authorities to vaping.

AUTHORITIES ARE TRYING TO CRACK DOWN

The city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin has urged everyone to stop vaping immediately this week (August 29) since 16 people were sent to hospital with “chemical pneumonia” related to vaping, CNN reports. The California branch of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws, meanwhile, has warned people against purchasing from unlicensed sellers. Other experts have warned against adding additional oils to vapes, especially (again) from unlicensed sellers.

CEO of Juul – the leading vape brand – Kevin Burns, says the CDC has been in “close contact”. “If there was any indication that there was an adverse health condition related to our product, I think we'd take very swift action,” he claims.