COLUMBUS, Ohio – State and local public health officials are investigating cases of six Ohioans who experienced severe pulmonary illness following vaping, the Ohio Department of Health announced Friday.
This announcement comes as officials with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday afternoon during a phone call with the media that there have been 193 potential cases of severe lung disease across the country linked to vaping, including one that resulted in a death.
There was a presence of THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol — the marijuana ingredient that creates a “high” — found in at least some of the cases.
Officials didn’t have a breakdown of how many, or if any, cases could have involved products containing nicotine. They said they continue to investigate how products were purchased and whether they were used as intended.
Dr. Brian King from the CDC’s Office of Smoking and Health said the recent spate of illnesses could come from a harmful product. Or they could be a trend that’s only now been noticed.
“It’s possible the reported cases could have been occurring before this investigation was initiated and we weren’t necessarily capturing them,” King said.
On Friday, an unidentified patient in Illinois died after being hospitalized with a respiratory illness after vaping. No more details were released.
None of the six Ohio patients have died.
“We are seeing a tremendous increase in vaping among our youth, which is a public health crisis,” said Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton, a physician. “There is a perception that vaping is safe, and these reports of serious pulmonary illness linked to e-cigarette or vaping product use show that this is simply not true.”
Patient respiratory symptoms in Ohio and elsewhere have included cough, shortness of breath and fatigue. Thus far, the CDC says there is no evidence that an infectious disease is the principal cause of the illnesses.
In some cases, symptoms worsened over a period of days or weeks and required hospitalization. Other symptoms reported by some patients included fever, chest pain, weight loss, nausea and diarrhea.
The investigations into Ohio’s six possible cases are just beginning, the department said.
The Health Department has issued an alert to health care providers, asking them to report to public health officials for investigation suspected cases of pulmonary illness with an unclear cause — but a patient history of e-cigarette use.
In addition to nicotine that’s found in vaping liquids, e-cigarette aerosols can contain harmful and potentially harmful substances, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
These include cancer-causing chemicals, heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead, volatile organic compounds which can adversely affect health; ultrafine particles that can reach deep into lungs and flavorings such as diacetyl, a chemical used to give butter-like and other flavors that are linked to serious lung disease.
“Anyone who thinks that they may be experiencing serious breathing problems linked to vaping should seek immediate medical attention,” Acton said.
New e-cig taxes, age limits
Last month, the Ohio General Assembly passed and Gov. Mike DeWine signed the budget bill with a number of measures restricting vaping: An increase of the minimum age to buy the liquids, filters and other vaping accessories from 18 to 21; and a new tax assessed at 10 centers per milliliter.
The state has resources for people who want to quit smoking and vaping at the Ohio Tobacco Quit Line: 1-800-QUIT-NOW. People can also receive cessation resources at https://ohio.quitlogix.org/en-US/.