RACINE COUNTY — The Wisconsin Department of Health Services says doctors across the state have confirmed 12 new cases of lung disease tied to vaping in young people, ranging in age from teens to 30 years old.
At least one of the cases occurred in Racine County and at least 13 other cases are currently being investigated by DHS.
These 12 cases follow eight hospitalizations that were reported at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin last month.
The new cases include those who vaped marijuana oils, extracts or concentrates, according to the state. Officials say the severity of the disease has varied among patients, with some needing assistance to breathe.
“Patients have improved with treatment, but we do not know if there will be long-term effects,” Michelle Sandberg, Kenosha-Racine-Walworth Tobacco-Free Coalition coordinator, told the Kenosha News. “All patients were tested for a number of fungal, bacterial, and viral illnesses, but all tests came back negative.”
The effect of the nicotine commonly found in e-cigarettes can be especially harmful to young people whose brains are still developing, negatively impacting learning, memory and attention, according to Surgeon General Jerome Adams.
“It is important for the public to be aware that vaping products and e-cigarettes may contain toxic chemicals that can damage lungs,” Jeff Langlieb, the community health officer for the Central Racine County Health Department, said in an email.
DHS issued a public health advisory in April related to vaping, saying that the number of Wisconsin high school students who use e-cigarettes increased by 154% between 2015 and 2018. As of 2018, one in five Wisconsin high schoolers reported using e-cigarettes. A study, published in the Addictive Behaviors journal in January 2016, found that males between the ages of 18-29 were about 35% more likely to use e-cigarettes than females in the same age range.
“The popularity of vaping is obviously skyrocketing among our kids and its dangers are still relatively unknown,” Michael Gutzeit, MD, chief medical officer of Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, said in a statement issued last month. “What we do know is vaping is dangerous. It’s especially dangerous in teenagers and young adults.”
“Contrary to what the industry would have them believe, e-cigarettes are not simply harmless water vapor,” Sandberg said. “The candy and fruit-flavorings that so many youth find appealing also contain chemicals known to cause irreparable lung damage … These flavorings are designed to tempt kids and give the false impression that e-cigarettes are safe.”
“The popularity of vaping is obviously skyrocketing among our kids and its dangers are still relatively unknown ... What we do know is vaping is dangerous. It’s especially dangerous in teenagers and young adults.” Michael Gutzeit, MD, chief medical officer of Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin