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A Blog from Your Kaiser Permanente Pediatricians in Northern California

Stop vaping sign

Stop Vaping e-cigs Now! Talk with Teens About Vaping Lung Disease and Injury

As the national news continues to report alarming increases in vaping-related severe lung disease, we here at Kaiser Permanente want to share warnings and updates with you. This illness is causing users of e-cigarettes to become seriously ill with:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain

Symptoms can also include fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other national and local health organizations are investigating the rising numbers of cases and deaths. These cases are clearly linked to recent use of e-cigarettes.

E-cigarettes (e-cigs, vape pens, e-hookahs) are used to heat an oil until it forms a mist that can be inhaled or “vaped.” The oils used for vaping can include those with nicotine, CBD, and THC.

The CDC is urging people to stop using any e-cig product in an attempt to halt the spread of this deadly illness. Their warning states:

“If you use e-cigarette or vaping products, you should:

  • Not buy these products (e.g., e-cigarette or vaping products with THC or CBD oils) off the street, and not modify or add any substances to these products that are not intended by the manufacturer.
  • See a healthcare provider right away if you have symptoms like those reported in this outbreak.”

Some adults are using e-cigarettes to help stop smoking. We recommend that they stop using e-cigs and see their doctor for other medical treatments. There are several very effective options.

Talking to teens 

With at least 20% of middle and high school students currently using e-cigs, parents urgently need to start a dialog at home about the risks.

This conversation can feel challenging to begin. Often parents don’t realize their kids are at risk – or already using. Vape pens can look like cigarettes, pipes, key fobs, flash drives or – pens. They can be small enough to hide in the front of a hoodie (some even have pockets built in for this purpose) and used at school and other places without notice.

When we start talking with our kids – there’s lots to learn! Here are a few resources to help you get the conversation started:

  • Begin by asking what they’ve heard about vaping and the vaping-related illness. Ask what their friends are doing. It’s easier to talk about touchy subjects when the pressure is off them – then they’re just talking about other kids at school. Express genuine curiosity and willingness to learn.
  • View one of the best sites for up-to-date information about vaping (e-cigs, pens, e-hookahs) and tobacco products at Truth Initiative.
  • Turn to social media to inspire your teens. Recently a 21-year-old who survived the vaping- related illness is now encouraging kids everywhere to smash their vape pens. Find out more on Twitter @breakthevape or #BreaktheVape and on Facebook @BREAKTHEVAPE.
  • Look at the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics websites for primers to help parents understand e-cigs.

Conversations with your teen can feel hard to start but we need to do it. Our kids are becoming addicted to nicotine and are at risk of lung injury as a result of vaping.

I agree with the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recent clear plea to parents and kids:

“Stop Vaping Now!”

Resources for Parents

My Doctor Online:
E-cigarettes and Vaping

American Academy of Pediatrics:
Facts for Parents About E-Cigarettes & Vaping

Centers for Disease Control:
Electronic Cigarettes

Disclaimer: If you have an emergency medical condition, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. An emergency medical condition is any of the following: (1) a medical condition that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity (including severe pain) such that you could reasonably expect the absence of immediate medical attention to result in serious jeopardy to your health or body functions or organs; (2) active labor when there isn't enough time for safe transfer to a Plan hospital (or designated hospital) before delivery, or if transfer poses a threat to your (or your unborn child's) health and safety, or (3) a mental disorder that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity such that either you are an immediate danger to yourself or others, or you are not immediately able to provide for, or use, food, shelter, or clothing, due to the mental disorder. This information is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of specific medical advice or care you receive from your physician or other health care professional. If you have persistent health problems, or if you have additional questions, please consult with your doctor. If you have questions or need more information about your medication, please speak to your pharmacist. Kaiser Permanente does not endorse the medications or products mentioned. Any trade names listed are for easy identification only.