Upstate doctors see increase in health issues related to vaping


Local doctors are seeing an increase in lung illnesses they say are related to vaping.

7 News spoke with a former e-cigarette user who said she’s not surprised.

“I tried vaping because I had smelled the smell that someone else had used, and I thought ‘This is really nice’ and I enjoyed it a lot,” Cheryl Simkins said.

Simkins told 7 News she vaped multiple times every day for three months and loved it… until she got sick.

“I was deathly sick with pneumonia and, on top of that, I started having neurological problems,” Simkins said.

“Truth is, I knew it was too good to be true,” Dr. Nasir Awan said. “The problem is, a lot of this stuff was designed overseas, in China and other places, and the problem is there’s no regulation for some of this stuff.”

Dr. Awan, with the Bon Secours Health System, said it’s hard to know exactly what we’re inhaling when we’re vaping.

He told 7 News vape pens contain oils that are harmful and can deposit in your lungs.

“They look innocent. They are not innocent,” Cheryl Simkins said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, so far in our nation, there have been 380 cases of lung disease that could be linked to vaping; but Dr. Awan said there’s probably a lot more cases that haven’t been reported.

“That number is going to grow every day,” he said.

So far, Awan has seen at least four patients with complications from vaping, and all of those patients have been teenagers.

“Four or five kids who have been really sick and require a fair amount of intervention in order to get them better, particularly with their breathing,” he said. “A lot of them end up on oxygen for a while. A lot of them end up requiring procedures where we have to sedate them, go into their lungs and wash out their lungs. These are not benign things.”

“Young people don’t think that’s ever going to happen to them, or anyone, really,” Simkins said. “But it does. It happened to me.”

The CDC reports that six people have died from lung disease associated with vaping.

President Trump recently talked about banning flavors for nicotine-containing e-liquids.

Dr. Awan said he was happy to hear about the possible ban, saying he thinks it will help dissuade people from vaping.

7 News spoke with a local vape shop about the possible ban as well. They provided the following statement:

“Early research and data provided by Turning Point Brands scientists, as well as from the FDA and other public health entities, indicates that many of these recent tragic deaths are linked to the consumption of black market and/or adulterated THC cartridges. It is speculated, yet not fully confirmed, that a molecule called Vitamin E Acetate has been responsible for the adverse health outcomes reported in many of the cases. Vitamin E Acetate can be formed when Vitamin E and Acidic Acid are present in formulas that has a pH value below 4.8. Our preliminary analysis shows that legitimate nicotine vaping products do not contain Vitamin E Acetate and do not have pH values below 4.8.””

“Carolina Vapor Mill would also like to make it clear to everyone that the recent proposal by the Trump administration to possibly ban flavors for nicotine-containing e-liquids has absolutely nothing to do with the reports of these lung illnesses. These are two separate issues with their lines becoming blurred in the media and among many consumers. The mention by President Trump’s administration of a possible ban on flavored e-liquid was the result of a new report on Wednesday in which the Survey of Youth Tobacco Use showed that the use of vaping products by America’s youth continues to rise. While we agree with the administration as well as any parent in America on the idea that we don’t want any kids using vaping products, we do believe there are better and more effective ways to achieve the desired decline in underage use without an all-out prohibition of an adult- oriented product. Our belief is that the passage of Tobacco 21 would help in this regard by eliminating situations where some high school students are old enough to purchase these products and in turn give them to their still underage friends or classmates. Further, we know from past experiences that prohibition doesn’t work. In fact, going back to the THC related illnesses mentioned above, many of those cases have happened in states where THC or marijuana in any form is prohibited, yet these folks still acquired and used the products. Banning flavored e-liquids will lead to not only many adults going back to smoking conventional combustible tobacco but also, by FDA’s own admission, a multi-milliondollar black market for e-liquids. This black market would be no different than the one causing the THC-related illness outbreak we’re seeing now. We firmly believe that American adults who are looking to stop smoking cancer-causing, combustible cigarettes should have option to vape e-liquids flavored with more than just tobacco. E-liquids flavored with something other than tobacco flavoring have proven more successful for the majority of e-cigarette users.” – Lee Lance, Co-Owner/Operating Partner – Carolina Vapor Mill

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