Health officials: Dozens hospitalized with breathing problems linked to vaping

In this April 11, 2018, file photo, a high school student uses a vaping device near a school campus in Cambridge, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - There is a disturbing new risk for people using e-cigarettes.

Health officials say dozens of teens and young adults across the country have reportedly been hospitalized with breathing problems linked to vaping.

Officials are investigating cases in eight states: Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, California, Ohio and Indiana.

Indiana State Department of Health leaders are investigating several cases of severe respiratory illness in patients who all reported having a history of vaping.

Six cases have been confirmed. Health officials say patients are as young as 16 and as old as 65.

"I think we really need to act quickly to not only regulate how they are advertised, to put them in the same place as other tobacco products. They are not safer than cigarettes," said Dr. Sarah Stelzer, a pediatrician at Eskenazi Hospital.

According to ISDH, no deaths have been reported. Doctors say symptoms include: shortness of breath, coughing, chest pain, fever, weight loss, diarrhea, nausea and abdominal pain. Some patients reportedly had to be put on ventilators.

"The rise in e-cigarettes and JUUL use amongst high schoolers and middle schoolers, frightening enough, has dramatically increased," said Stelzer.

According the Centers for Disease Control, in 2018 more than 3.6 million young people used e-cigarettes.

"We really believe now and understand the science of how the brain forms and matures that it's up to (age) 25 so your brain is fully matured. So you can imagine what's going on with middle schoolers and high schoolers," said Stelzer.

The CDC ranks Indiana in the top three states for having the highest amount of e-cigarette users.

Stelzner says there is a misconception about the use of e-cigarettes.

"People thought of it in the past as a way to avoid smoking cigarettes. Well actually the nicotine is just as addictive and we were making great progress with cigarettes previously but e-cigarettes have really erased all of that progress," said Stelzner.

Stelzner says there are options for teens and young adults to want to stop using e-cigarettes.

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