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Nipping the Vape in it’s Tracks.

Jasmine Bhatti, PhD Candidate, RN

Vaping. This topic is now the subject of much dialogue among people around the world. The uncertainty circling it is creating a stir, and it is with good reason. We don’t know exactly what is happening and we don’t know what is to come.  

For a proper full disclosure, I am guilty of having special interests in mind. You see, I am a nurse and doctoral student. My special interests are simple. They are: people & science. As such, I am asking you to put all the political rhetoric to the side and focus on the issue at hand.

Historically, the prominent authority on disease and health is the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). They function to collect data and monitor health concerns such as: infectious diseases, obesity, cancer, and morbidity & mortality for a host of factors. They are also instrumental in expediting the understanding of new and emergent health conditions. One such fear is the emergence of a severe lung disease that is associated with vaping or using e-cigarettes. It is most worrisome because of the population of people who are being affected, and the swiftness and severity with which it is causing harm.  

To better understand the problem, the CDC has organized a team of scientists and epidemiologist who work in collaboration with state health departments and clinicians who study suspected cases. These cases are thoroughly reviewed to ensure that they match the case definitions. Per the CDC, this is what is currently known:

  • To date, there are 380 confirmed cases from 36 states and 1 U.S. territory with six deaths reported from 6 different states.
  • All reported cases include a history of vaping or e-cigarette use.
  • Most people have reported using e-cigarette products containing THC and many of them used THC & nicotine combined. Some reports suggest that nicotine only was used in the e-cigarette.

    According to the CDC, clinical features of this pulmonary illness include:
  1. Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, & diarrhea which may occur before the onset of any respiratory symptoms
  2. Non-productive cough
  3. Chest pain in the pleural region
  4. Shortness of breath that begins weeks or even days before hospitalization
  5. Systemic tachycardia, fever, chills, or fatigue
  6. Imaging is variable, but chest x-rays may show infiltrates in the lungs and CT’s of the lungs may show ground glass opacities

To help better understand the exact cause and prevent it from harming others, it is crucial to fully disclose all health information to your health care provider. This detailed history should include what substances have been used (THC, CDB, flavors, etc.), how they were sourced (homemade vs. commercially available), what device was used, where the products were purchased, and what method was used. Your healthcare provider will also ask about your medical history, paying close attention to any underlying diseases or infections in the body, especially involving the lungs. It is also helpful to know when the symptoms started. There has never been a more important time for candidness when describing your medical history.

Vulnerable individuals such children, women who are pregnant, and individuals who already suffer from chronic diseases should be especially careful with exposure to vaping and e-cigarettes until more is known.

If you, or someone you love develops any of the above-mentioned symptoms and has been using e-cigarettes, please consult your healthcare team. If the symptoms are emergent, call 911 for immediate care.

The CDC also encourages the general public to submit a detailed report of any unexpected tobacco or e-cigarette related issue to the FDA at: https://www.safetyreporting.hhs.gov

Finally, if you are concerned about harmful effects from vaping, please contact your local poison control center at: 1-800-222-1222.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019, September). Outbreak of Lung Disease Associated with E-Cigarette Use of Vaping. Retrieved September 13, 2019 from https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/severe-lung-disease.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019, August). Health Alert Network: Severe Pulmonary Disease Associated with Using E-Cigarette Products. Retrieved September 13, 2019 from https://emergency.cdc.gov/han/han00421.asp

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