Mass. Officials, Researchers Sound Alarm on Vaping Risks

Health officials have notified medical professionals to watch for patients with respiratory illnesses who report using e-cigarettes

Officials and researchers in Massachusetts issued warnings this week about the potential dangers of e-cigarettes amid a spate of sicknesses related to vaping.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health on Tuesday notified around 25,000 doctors, nurses, and physician assistants to be on the lookout for patients with respiratory illnesses who report using e-cigarettes or vaporizers, the Boston Globe reported. The medical professionals were told to report any such cases to the state.

The notification came amid a series of illnesses that may be linked to e-cigarettes or other vaping products. Last week, an Illinois resident, who recently vaped, died after being hospitalized with a severe respiratory illness.

Andrea Vargas, who works in Boston, said she noticed when e-cigarettes and vaping products arrived on her college campus a couple of years ago and quickly spread.

"My generation of people kind of shifted from cigarettes to vapes so I don't know if younger students are going straight to vapes," Vargas remarked.

Meanwhile, a Dana-Farber Cancer Institute released Wednesday found that roughly a third of middle- and high-school students were exposed to second-hand aerosols from e-cigarettes last year, a sharp increase from the previous two years.

The study said clean air laws should be implemented to decrease second-hand aerosol exposure among youth, and that families be educated about the need to "protect young people from being exposed to all forms of tobacco product emissions, including from e-cigarettes."

Dr. Andy Tan of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute who has been studying the popularity among middle and high school students says the jump interest is staggering.

"This is a highly addictive substance that can cause a lot of damage to the developing brain," Tan said Thursday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating nearly 200 cases of severe lung illnesses with links to vaping in at least 14 states with another seven states expected to be added.

Dr. Nancy Rigotti who has been studying the benefits of e-cigarettes for Massachusetts General Hospital said she wouldn't be surprised if the Bay State was added to that CDC list. She said while researchers know e-cigarettes can help smokers quit, they never imagined they could potentially cause so much harm.

"It's sort of taken off like wildfire and now we haven't figured out how we can stop it," Rigotti said.

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