“Vaping illness” reported in Louisiana, Loyola student notices similar symptoms


Loyola student using an e-cigarette on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019. Two-thirds of cases of ‘vaping illnesses’ are found in people ages 18 to 34, according to the CDC. Photo credit: Lily Cummings

Lily Cummings

Ethan Riggs, finance sophomore, and avid “vaper” is hoping he won’t become one of hundreds of increasingly harmful vaping statistics.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released a statement confirming 805 lung injury cases, and 12 confirmed deaths across the U.S. have been linked to electronic cigarette use, commonly known as vaping.

“I tried to quit this past summer and couldn’t,” Riggs said, “That’s when I started to feel addicted.”

Riggs said that after vaping for almost two years, he noticed that he is fatigued after doing simple tasks.

“I’m out of breath a lot,” Riggs said. “Which I’m healthy for the most part so it’s kind of concerning to me.”

Dr. Scott Davis, pediatric pulmonologist at Tulane-Lakeside Hospital, said that most of the patients being diagnosed with vaping illness are coughing and short of breath. It can even worsen to the point where a patient may be prescribed lung therapy. In some cases, doctors are able to treat the patients with steroids, Davis said.

“Some have seen nausea and vomiting, but that’s not universal,” Davis said, “In some ways they’re acting like they have a bacterial or viral pneumonia.”

Riggs said that last year he visited his doctor who told him he almost had pneumonia.

“They checked my lungs and I was at a bad breathing capacity,” Riggs said, “So, I quit for a little bit and then went back to it.”

Dr. Joseph Kanter, assistant state health officer at the Department of Health, said while some people may think that e-cigarettes or vaping products are less bad than traditional cigarettes, there are risks involved, including nicotine addiction.

“It’s a crisis,” Kanter said.

The Department of Health has seen a dramatic increase in the number of teens or adolescents who are vaping or using e-cigarette products, Kanter said. According to the CDC, nearly two-thirds of patients with vaping illness are 18 to 34 years old.

“These products were introduced to adults as way to transition off of traditional cigarettes,” Kanter said, “What they’ve actually done is help young folks get introduced to smoking.”

The vaping industry is about a 2.6 billion dollar industry and that comes with a lot of clout, Kanter said.

“What you see Congress and federal administration doing right now is trying to fight back, and trying to find a good balance between keeping some products on the shelves and made available to adults who have transitioned from traditional cigarettes, while making sure that flavored products that are marketed towards kids never see the light of day,” Kanter said.

The Department of Health is following the reports that are coming out on the national level closely in the state of Louisiana, Kanter said. The state has reported 18 cases of vaping illness, according to Kanter.

The Department of Health is worried about the long-term effects of vaping because it is relatively new, said Kanter.

According to Davis, the numbers of lung injury cases may be on the rise, but there have been isolated reports in medical literature about respiratory illness associated with vaping in the past.

The Food and Drug Administration gained the authority to regulate vaping products in 2016, according to Kanter.

“You really don’t know what’s in that cartridge or that bottle of juice,” Kanter said, “You definitely know there’s nicotine, but you don’t know what other chemicals are in there.”

The latest findings from the CDC’s investigation suggest products containing THC play a role in the outbreak. Looking at data on substances used in e-cigarettes or vaping products in the 30 days prior to 514 patients’ symptom onset, the CDC found that 77 percent reported using THC-containing products, and 57 percent reported nicotine-containing products.

“Don’t do vaping,” Davis said, “But if you’re going to have to do it, then be careful where you get the vaping cartridges.”

Riggs said his experience with vaping began with vape juice, but later he was introduced to Juul products. The products were given to him at first by his friends when he was in high school.

“I’ve been Juuling ever since,” Riggs said.

It had been two days since he tried quitting, but he is still vaping. Riggs said it makes him feel less stressed and anxious, but he does find it concerning that kids who have been vaping less time than he has have seen collapsed lungs.

“It’s one of the big reasons I want to quit,” Riggs said.