Vaping hospitalizations up 52% nationwide
What makes this health crisis so scary?
No one knows what specifically is causing vaping hospitalizations and deaths.
All they know is patients have a history of smoking e-cigarettes.
After two years of chronic habitual vaping most recently with a THC vaping device, Simah Herman says she was rushed to the hospital with breathing problems.
She was put into a medically induced coma and attached to a ventilator for several days.
“It was terrifying,” Simah says. “I was just getting weaker and weaker by the minute."
Simah is one of the lucky patients.
So far 12 people have died in 10 states of an unknown lung ailment caused by vaping. 69% of the patients are male. 62% are patients between the ages of 18 and 34. 22% are between the ages of 18 and 21 years of age. 16% are 18 or younger.
“We don't necessarily know the potential side effects and health hazards that are associated with it,” says pulmonologist Dr. Aaron Viray. “So as more people use it, that is when the complications and side effects that are associated with it will start to manifest themselves,” he says.
Dr. Viray is with the community faculty at UNR Med and is also with Northern Nevada Medical Center. He says while he has not seen a patient with this mysterious illness, the symptoms, especially in a younger patient with no history of lung disease, would really stick out.
“Chest pain, difficulty breathing, people are getting hospitalized as a result of it,” says Dr. Viray.
Vaping involves heating liquid to produce an aerosol which is inhaled into the lungs.
This liquid can be candy or fruit flavored which has attracted younger people--especially those who have never smoked before.
But researchers are finding patients hospitalized after vaping may be using adulterated products.
77% report using some products containing THC.
36% report exclusive use of THC products within 30 days before getting sick.
THC is the active ingredient in marijuana which gets smokers high.
However more than 50% of patients report using mostly nicotine containing products.
16% say they smoke nicotine products only.
Investigators say many of these products are sold on the black market.
One theory--Vitamin E acetate, a solvent used to cut cannabis for use in vaping could be responsible.
Others point to empty cartridges filled with various chemicals and sold on the black market.
The mystery-filled cartridges could be the reason for such high numbers of hospitalizations and deaths.
Once heated, there is no way of knowing the chemical reaction and its impact on lungs.
“I mean heavy metals, oils, nicotine, THC-- all of these different kind of chemicals that we don't necessarily know what response they will trigger or illicit within someone's lungs,” says Dr. Viray.
While many states and cities have outlawed the sale of flavored or standard vaping products, experts agree the black market surrounding vaping may be a tougher industry to get their arms around.
Speaking of regulation, the Food and Drug Administration was scolded by congress last week for not stepping in and regulating the industry as they do cigarettes.
The same could be said for cigarettes decades ago.
But as Dr. Viray says, it took decades to see the health ramifications of smoking.
However it appears the consequences of vaping have reared their ugly head much faster.
The FDA says it will require vaping manufacturers to remove all flavored products by May of 2020.