NORFOLK, Va. - More than 200 cases of a serious lung disease possibly linked to vaping have been reported in 22 states, including Virginia and North Carolina. Just last week, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a statement about the first death connected to the outbreak in Illinois, warning that vaping "exposes users to many different substances for which we have little information about related harms – including flavorings, nicotine, cannabinoids, and solvents."
"Increasing evidence points to the dangers of vaping," said News 3 medical expert Dr. Ryan Light. "The chemical make up of vaping liquids varies and is not regulated."
Dr. Light said the CDC is working with local health officials concerning a cluster of severe lung illness linked to vaping.
"This illness presents with worsening respiratory symptoms that occur over days to weeks after vaping," said Dr. Light. "The initial symptoms are cough, shortness of breath, and fatigue. Some patients also experience fever, lack of appetite, chest pain, nausea, and diarrhea. CAT scan images show damage to the lungs. This damage is most often not due to an infectious disease."
Dr. Light said vaping is very addictive, even though it is often viewed as harmless.
"Vaping carries the same addiction potential as cigarettes and may be even harder to quit, given the fact that vaping is not prohibited in public places," he added.
"Just like cigarettes whose dangers weren’t initially known, long term effects aren’t known about vaping," he stressed.
Vaping contains nicotine, which is known to increase risk of stroke and heart attack.
"The other substances in liquid nicotine are not well studied," Dr. Light highlighted. "Inhalation of one of the flavoring chemicals, diacetyl, is associated with a disease known as 'popcorn lung,' which can lead to lifelong lung problems such as emphysema."
Dr. Light urged parents to inform their children about the dangers linked to vaping.
"Parents and teens should be aware that vaping is often falsely marketed as a 'safer' alternative to cigarettes. Vaping or using e-cigarettes is harmful and dangerous. Vaping is illegal under the age of 21 in Virginia," he said.