Health Concerns Over Vaping After Severe Lung Injury Cases Rise

Alejandra Palacios
Updated: August 14, 2019 08:03 PM

 Concern is growing after Children's Minnesota identified four cases of severe lung injury potentially related to vaping in the metro area. More cases are being reported across the Midwest.

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The cases involve young teens and adults. The Minnesota Department of Health(MDH) is encouraging health care providers to be alert. 

Children's Minnesota pediatric pulmonologist, Anne Griffiths, said the patients are very ill and that the lung injury or disease could potentially be life-threatening.The hospitalizations have lasted multiple weeks, with some patients admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. 

“We know that in the last year around this area there have been potential cases of students from local schools who had health issues around vaping,” Amanda Casady, the manager of Health Promotions for the Duluth American Lung Association, said.

The concern about e-cigarettes and vaping products from these cases even has local smoke shop owners talking.

“We don't want any children or human to get harmed. When it came out, it was supposed to be a safer alternative to cigarettes or help people quit smoking,” Mike Wazwaz, the owner of the Duluth Smoke Shop, said.

The 2017 Minnesota Youth Tobacco survey found that nearly 20 percent of high school students use e-cigarettes and 40 percent have tried them.

According to MDH, e-cigarette aerosol has harmful chemicals like ultrafine particles, oils, heavy metals like nickel, tin, lead, and other cancer-causing chemicals. E-cigarettes and vaping products are battery powered that let users inhale aerosolized liquid. 

The four cases are affecting teens between the ages of 16 to 18. They had prior exposure to vaping. Nicotine and marijuana-based products were reported as well. Griffiths said the symptoms for these cases are similar to infectious diseases like shortness of breath, fever, cough, upset stomach, nausea, chest pain, dizziness, and vomiting. This makes a treatment or diagnosis for a vaping injury complex.

"When patients are not getting better or improving with standard treatment, we need to think again about is this actually due to a vaping injury. It’s really important to ask teens about risky behavior,” Griffiths said.

“The more educated people are on topics the better choices they make and that's the bigger step we need to take is making sure teens are educated on this,” Jacob Janousek from Mora, said.

Griffiths said vaping injuries are an early evolving field and emphasized the importance of physicians communicating with people who have treated inhalational or vaping injuries in order to evaluate patients appropriately and get the correct treatment for patients.

Casady said these cases are alarming and concerning but not surprising. Casady said the American Lung Association is always pushing for more education on these products and on changing the purchase age of these products to age 21 across the state.

“This is enough of a wake-up call for local communities that have not become engaged that have not passed policies and for states as well to pass a state policy in the next year,” Casady said.


Alejandra Palacios

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