Teens Hospitalized For Vaping-Related Breathing Problems 

By Kelly Burch 07/31/19

The teens were experiencing shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea and diarrhea, among other symptoms.

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Eight teenagers in Wisconsin were hospitalized in July with breathing issues that doctors believe are related to their use of e-cigarettes, or vapes. 

The teens were admitted to the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, which held a press conference about the cases. The hospital’s chief medical officer, Dr. Michael Gutzeit, spoke about the teens. 

"We suspect that these injuries were caused by vaping," he said, according to CNN Health.

The teens were experiencing shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea and diarrhea, among other symptoms. When they underwent chest X-rays, doctors found that the teens had swollen and inflamed lungs. 

"The severity of health condition has varied, with some patients needing assistance in order to breathe," Gutzeit said. He noted that the teens are all improving, but the conditions were concerning given that vaping is so popular among young people. 

Vaping Risks

Many teenagers believe that vapes are relatively harmless. However, the "e-liquids" that is being vaporized contain nicotine, chemicals and sometimes heavy metals that can be harmful. Gutzeit said it is important that teenagers and their parents understand and talk about the risks of vaping. 

"It's very important for teens and parents to understand more about vaping. Talk to each other. Understand the risks of vaping,” he said.

While teen cigarette use continues to decline, vaping is becoming more popular. Research shows that 20% of high schoolers and 5% of middle schoolers use e-cigarettes. The rate of vape use increased by more than 900% between 2011 and 2015, research has found. 

Recently, the e-cigarette company Juul, which controls 70% of the U.S. market for e-cigarettes, hired a pediatrician and researcher as its executive medical officer. The company claimed that the appointment of Dr. Mark Rubinstein was a way to ensure that young people are not using vapes, but some are worried that the company has ulterior motives. 

“Even if you believe in harm reduction, to go work for a tobacco company… to me goes against everything that anybody doing control should believe in,” Stanford University professor Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, who trained Rubinstein during his time at UCSF, told Kaiser Health News.

Opponents of e-cigarettes say that since their popularity has been rising so quickly, it’s imperative that the public understand the health risks of vapes, particularly for young people. 

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.