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January 3, 2020
There’s an increase nationwide among e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury, also called EVALI. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports more than 40 deaths and over 2,000 injuries related to EVALI. Locally, physicians at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital have also treated patients with severely low oxygen levels and pneumonia-like symptoms. Dr. Jasmine Reese, M.D., medical director of the Adolescent and Young Adult Specialty Clinic at Johns Hopkins All Children’s, breaks down what parents and caregivers need to know.
What are you seeing at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital related to EVALI?
Physicians are seeing devastating effects that vaping can have on children and teens in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. Physicians are seeing severely low oxygen levels. Some patients require breathing tubes or machines to help them get through this illness. Many intensivists are finding that this lung injury behaves similar to a pneumonia illness but doesn’t respond to antibiotics as a bacterial pneumonia typically would. In some cases, there could be irreversible damage leaving children with chronic lung disease.
What chemicals or substance are causing these issues?
The CDC continues to conduct studies to determine what is causing lung damage. Researchers have found that vitamin E acetate might be contributing but this is still under investigation. Vitamin E acetate is thought to be an additive or thickening measure used in vape products and the CDC recommends against use of this additive until further research is done. Aerosols produced by e-cigs and vaping devices can contain toxic cancer-causing chemicals, harmful agents and heavy metals like nickel, tin and lead. These substances can lead to injury throughout the body including in the lungs, respiratory tract, blood vessels and the brain. Different vape products might contain nicotine and could be laced with marijuana or other drugs. One vape cartridge is equivalent to a pack of cigarettes and could damage an adolescent’s developing brain.
What do vaping devices and e-cigs look like?
Vaping devices can come in different shapes and sizes and can be very easy to hide. Common items such as pens, flash drives or key fobs are examples of devices that could be overlooked by responsible adults. Many of the teens who are vaping likely would not be smoking at all if it were traditional cigarettes, but there are now a variety of vape flavors that are appealing for youth because they sound harmless.
How can parents help teens quit vaping?
Lastly, if you or your child are concerned about his or her health after using an e-cigarette, call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222.