What is Vape Lung and How Serious is the Problem?

Stephen M. Smith
Last Updated:
November 27, 2019

Vape lung is a relatively new term used for a slew of respiratory diseases linked to vaping or e-cigarettes. The disease claimed its first life in Aug. 2019.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and health officials in the State of Illinois investigated the death of a man from lung symptoms linked to vaping.

It came a month after CDC launched an investigation into reports of a mystery lung disease that affected more than 200 people in 25 states over the summer. CDC announced it was helping health departments in Illinois, Wisconsin, California, Indiana, and Minnesota after the discovery of a “cluster of pulmonary illnesses linked to e-cigarette product use.”

People diagnosed with the disease are mostly men aged 17-38.  The CDC said most of the illnesses involve vaping THC, the main active compound in cannabis, BBC News reported.

The cases were recorded over two months from June 28 to the end of August. The man who died was "hospitalized with unexplained illness after reported vaping or e-cigarette use,” according to Dr. Jennifer Layden, the chief medical officer and state epidemiologist in Illinois.

According to reports, the people who fell ill reported symptoms including shortness of breath, coughing, and fatigue as well as some cases of vomiting and diarrhea. Doctors said there was no evidence an infectious disease caused the symptoms.

Officials in more than 20 states ordered laboratory tests of vaping liquid samples as they sought to identify harmful compounds that may have caused the disease. Media reports stated a black market exists for THC-containing vape cartridges. These are legally obtained through medical marijuana dispensaries in certain states.

Have Cases of Vape Lung Been Identified in Virginia?

On Aug. 26, the Richmond Times Dispatch reported three cases of vape lung associated with smoking e-cigarettes were reported in Virginia. Health officials in the Commonwealth said the conditions of the patients did not improve with antibiotics.

The CDC issued a warning about the dangers of vaping in the wake of the rising numbers of people diagnosed with vape lung. Robert R. Redfield, CDC director, said:

"This tragic death in Illinois reinforces the serious risks associated with e-cigarette products. Vaping exposes users to many different substances for which we have little information about related harms – including flavorings, nicotine, cannabinoids, and solvents. CDC has been warning about the identified and potential dangers of e-cigarettes and vaping since these devices first appeared. E-cigarettes are not safe for youth, young adults, pregnant women, or adults who do not currently use tobacco products.”

The Virginia Department of Health urged doctors to look out for signs of illnesses linked to vaping.

How Are Injuries and Illnesses Linked to Vaping?

Vaping is a fairly new phenomenon. Although e-cigarettes are often marketed as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes, they have caused numerous injuries and illnesses.

Even before the warnings of 2019, e-cigarettes or vape pens were linked to serious fires and explosions that disfigured users and even caused deaths.

In Feb. 2019, a 24-year-old man from Texas died from injuries he sustained after his vape pen exploded.

The Lithium-ion batteries in some devices caught fire with devastating effects. A report by the US Federal Emergency Management Agency warned lithium-ion batteries in e-cigarettes pose a “new and unique hazard.”

Many vaping devices are made cheaply and compromise on safety. The companies that run the $7 billion vaping industry are likely to face lawsuits for faulty devices and potential health impacts of vaping.

Diacetyl, one of the chemicals in flavored e-cigarettes is associated with a disease known as ‘popcorn lung’ in which the airways of the lungs called bronchioles sustain damage. Diacetyl was used in a popcorn factory where it made workers ill. The chemical was banned in Europe.

Talk to a Virginia Injury Lawyer About Vape Lung

Many questions remain about the causes of vape lung and which devices are responsible for this serious condition. We know vaping is exacting a terrible toll on hundreds of people but this may be the tip of the iceberg. If you have been harmed by e-cigarettes, you may have grounds to sue a manufacturer or a retailer. Please contact the Smith Law Center today at (757) 244-7000.

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