DHEC asking healthcare providers to report vaping-related illnesses amid nationwide outbreak

E-cigarette risks
E-cigarette risks
Updated: Aug. 29, 2019 at 8:26 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) -With growing concerns about the health risks associated with e-cigarette use, the South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control is now asking healthcare providers across the state to report any severe cases of lung disease linked to vaping.

This comes after a warning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recently issued a statement saying that e-cigarettes expose users to many substances that we have very little information on at this time. The agency says the product is not safe for youth, pregnant women or even adults, especially those who were not using tobacco products before using e-cigs.

This statement from the CDC came in response to the country’s first reported death related to vaping. Last week, a patient in Illinois died after being hospitalized with severe respiratory issues connected to vaping.

Right now, the CDC is reporting more than 190 potential vaping-related illnesses in 22 states.

WIS-TV talked to Dr. Heather Staples, a pediatric pulmonary physician with Prisma Health Children’s Hospital, who explained more about some of the growing concerns surrounding e-cigarette use and especially among our youth.

“The nicotine content in the e-cigarette cartridges is two to four times that of what’s in a cigarette. Some Juul pods have the amount of nicotine that’s in an entire pack of cigarettes. The problem with that is that you very quickly can become addicted because you’re exposing your body to high levels of nicotine over a short period of time and we’re seeing that these children are more likely to go on to be traditional cigarette smokers and they actually smoke more than their counterparts that did not use electronic cigarettes.”

DHEC provided these numbers showing tobacco use trends among SC high school students between 2011 and 2017.

DHEC smoking numbers (source: SCDHEC)
DHEC smoking numbers (source: SCDHEC)

Right now, there are no known hospitalizations in South Carolina linked to vaping, but DHEC just recently put out a request to healthcare providers asking that they report any severe lung disease cases connected to e-cigarettes, so that they can begin effectively keeping track.

When responding to the recent death in IL, the CDC’s director said that death reinforces the serious risks associated with e-cigarettes, mainly because of unknown and harmful chemicals.

Dr. Staples explains this further, saying, “There are other chemicals that are being aerosolized from the liquid that is being heated during the use of an e-cigarette. We don’t know the long-term ramifications yet of these devices because they haven’t been on the market for all that long. So, we worry with the exposure to these aerosolized chemicals that we could be seeing other issues down the line that have not been yet recognized and that starts with some of what we’re seeing now with some of these lung injuries.”

Dr. Staples goes on to say that the FDA does not monitor, “what’s actually in these pods. So, you don’t honestly know what you’re getting.”

She says coughing, shortness of breath and fatigue are the top three symptoms doctors are seeing in patients developing vaping-related lung disease.

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