Over a dozen teenagers and young adults in Illinois and Wisconsin have suffered breathing problems that required hospitalization after “vaping” — that is, using electronic vaporizer machines that turn oil into an inhaled vapor.
As CNN reports, 11 young people in Wisconsin have been hospitalized recently with severe lung disease, as have three in Illinois. All presented with fatigue, chest pain, and shortness of breath. So bad were the youths’ breathing problems that several required assistance to breathe, including having to go to the Intensive Care Unit and be placed on ventilators.
The symptoms appeared to point to some sort of pulmonary infection, but tests have come back negative, says Thomas Haupt, a respiratory disease epidemiologist with Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services.
Authorities are trying to piece together what else the 14 cases have in common. The Wisconsin cases were all from the southeastern portion of the state, near the Illinois border. Similarly, the Illinois cases were all from the northeastern part of the state, near the same border. Other than that, it’s not known if they purchased their products from the same retailer or used products from the same manufacturer.
Read and share this warning for teens today from @IDPH about the harmful effects of vaping, which may have been the culprit that landed more than a dozen Midwest teens in the hospital. Learn about the dangers to students’ health at https://t.co/5sOg23Lczo pic.twitter.com/Yz2xtG6wV0
— Illinois State Board of Education (@ISBEnews) August 2, 2019
Vaporizing, or “vaping,” has become a popular way for nicotine (and cannabis) users to get their product. Vaporizer pens and similar machines heat an oil that produces a vapor that is then inhaled, according to The Center On Addiction. Oftentimes, that oil is flavored, with flavors such as strawberry or mint.
One vape pen manufacturer, Juul, has all but cornered the market on nicotine vaporizers. The units are small and resemble a USB drive, making them easy to hide and thus, popular with people too young to purchase and use tobacco products.
According to The National Center For Health Research, this method of getting a nicotine fix was, at one time, considered to be a safer alternative than smoking. However, though vaporizers don’t contain tobacco, they do contain toxins, including known carcinogens.
Similarly, health officials have expressed concerns that teenagers and children will get addicted to vaping nicotine and then switch to actual tobacco cigarettes.
Back in Wisconsin and Illinois, the sickened teenagers and young adults all appear to be on the mend. However, it remains unclear, as of this writing, whether or not they will suffer any long-term effects from whatever caused them to be hospitalized.