February 13, 2020

CAMC Women and Children’s Hospital recently treated its first vaping-related lung injury in a teenager.

And based on a report released in January by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (WVDHHR) it probably won’t be the last.

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That report showed 35.7% of state high school students currently use e-cigarettes. It also showed 15.3% of West Virginia middle school students are current users of electronic vapor products. This is an increase of almost 160% since 2017.The report also noted students have been seen in emergency rooms or hospitalized in West Virginia related to vaping.

“Initially, on admission to CAMC Women and Children’s Hospital, this patient was thought to have a severe multi-focal pneumonia and was started on antibiotics,” said Youmna Mousattat, MD, pediatrician. “However, the CT scans of his chest did not correlate with that diagnosis, so we treated him with steroids after finding out he’d been using e-cigarettes.”

Symptoms of lung injury related to use of e-cigarette, or vaping, products in teens are vague and include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and cough. The cough can be mistaken for a common viral infection or bronchitis.

“Nicotine exposure during adolescence harms developing brains and can impact learning, memory and attention,” Mousattat said. “It also increases the chances that the teen will use tobacco and other drugs.”

The long-term effects of using e-cigarettes are still unknown.

“What we know so far is enough to take action to protect our teens,” Mousattat said. “Teenagers have the misconception that e-cigarettes are safe. When I interviewed my patient, he thought this was a safe product to use as a substitute for tobacco.”

E-cigarettes were first introduced more than a decade ago when tobacco use among youth was continuing to decline in West Virginia and across the U.S. The WVDHHR noted in its report that vaping among youth was present, but markedly lower than use of combustible cigarettes. With the development of small, readily disguisable, and flavored products introduced and marketed by the industry in recent years, youth nicotine use has skyrocketed.

In December 2019, federal legislation raised the minimum age for tobacco sales to 21.

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