Health officials are warning about possible dangers to teenagers from electronic cigarettes. A rash of young people was recently rushed to the hospital after suffering from breathing problems, seizures, and severe lung damage after using the products.
E-Cigs burst onto the scene about ten years ago and quickly became so popular among young people, the US Surgeon General calls teen vaping an epidemic.
The user sucks on a mouthpiece, which heats flavored liquid nicotine that becomes vaporized and inhaled. Initially, manufacturers claimed E-Cigs were designed to help adults quit smoking. However, what ended up happening is teenagers, many who never smoke regular cigarettes were enticed by the sweet flavors like watermelon and bubble-gum as well as the cartoonish packaging resembling candy wrappers, not to mention the addictive nicotine.
Dr. Mike Gutzeit, chief medical officer at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin said: "Vaping in teenagers is something that's harming our kids and we want that to be loud and clear."
Since E-Cigs are so new, little is known about their long-term impact, particularly on young people. But health officials are sounding alarms about breathing problems, even severe lung damage, after a spike in teens sent to the hospital after vaping.
That includes four cases in Minnesota, up to twelve in Wisconsin, six in Illinois, and at least one in Florida.
Eighteen-year-old Chance Ammirata was rushed to the hospital with a collapsed lung.
"It felt like I was having a heart attack! It was insanely scary," he said.
Chance says his doctors told him he had a condition made worse by vaping. Now on Instagram he declares, "Nicotine is rotting our brains and destroying our bodies," adding, "How many more kids are going to have to get hospitalized for us to stop!?"
Another teen, Dylan Nelson, was placed in a medically-induced coma after vaping, according to his brother.
"Trauma he caused to his lungs is significant," he said.
Doctors say these acute, aggressive lung injuries appear to be caused by E-Cigs, although it's not yet confirmed.
"We recognize that it is not a result of infection like viruses or bacteria," said Dr. Emily Chapman, Children's Minnesota chief medical officer. "It looks more similar to injury from inhalation of some kind of a caustic substance. The body is actually reacting to something that's been exposed to or deposited along the lining of the lung."
Research shows teens who use e-cigarettes are more likely to start smoking regular cigarettes. And the continued use of nicotine can make other drugs such as cocaine more pleasurable.