Teens hospitalized after lung damage linked to vaping, raising questions over the devices

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NORTHWEST ARKANSAS, Ark. (KNWA) — Almost two dozen people in the Midwest, many of them young adults, have been hospitalized with severe breathing difficulties linked to vaping.

It’s unclear what type of device those 22 people were using or where they were purchased, but it landed some in the intensive care unit for severe lung damage.

Some patients said they used e-cigarettes to inhale both nicotine and THC.

According to the Office of the Surgeon General, since 2014, e-cigarettes have been the most commonly used tobacco product among U.S. youth.

(AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Research from 2018 shows more than $3.6 million U.S. youth used the vaping products.

Most contain nicotine, a highly additive substance.

How common is teen vaping in northwest Arkansas?

Dr. Randy Conover, a family physician in Centerton, says there can be toxic substances in e-cigarettes like nickel, tin, lead, and benzene.

“The nicotine use has probably increased with teenagers because it comes in flavorful candy-like, child-inviting flavors…in adults vaping and e-cigarettes have gone up as well because they feel it’s safer than cigarettes,” Dr. Conover said.

Health officials are calling the use of e-cigarettes youth an epidemic.

Coleman Wilson, a recent high school graduate who refrains from vaping, calls it a status symbol for teens.

“I would say its very very common,” Wilson said. “There’s a buzz with nicotine, and there’s kind of a social stigma with cigarettes. You can kind of get away from the social stigma but still get the buzz with vaping.”

Among the more popular products in northwest Arkansas, he says, is Juul.

“What a lot of kids do — you can actually fit it in your hand, and then if you ever see a kid put his hand up to his mouth, it’s exactly what he’s doing.”

While many people use the products to get off of cigarettes, Dr. Conover says there’s no evidence that it’s actually helpful.

“Any brain that is less than 25 years old has a higher risk of addiction, and in teenagers they even show the studies that teenagers who use vaping are three times more likely to use cigarettes in the future,” he said. “Other health effects that we have seen is pneumonia. There’s a specific pneumonia that you get when you inhale fatty substances, and that’s usually the chemical that’s carrying in vaping. It’s an oily fat substance that’s in there in addition to just water.”

The first symptoms of lung disease include cough, shortness of breath, fever, and increased sickness.

These are all warning signs that you should go see a doctor.

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