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Vaping and e-cigarette products such as Juul might not be the best alternative to traditional cigarettes. The first official death due to a lung illness related to vaping was reported.

Today, Aug. 23, Illinois officials stated that someone who was recently hospitalized with a severe lung illness potentially related to their vape use passed away.

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According to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), the number of cases reported to the IDPH regarding vaping and hospitalization due to severe respiratory illness doubled in the past week.

“A total of 22 people, ranging in age from 17-38 years, have experienced respiratory illness after using e-cigarettes or vaping.” The IDPH report states.

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“Affected individuals have experienced respiratory symptoms including cough, shortness of breath, and fatigue. Some also experienced vomiting and diarrhea. Symptoms worsened over a period of days or weeks before admission to the hospital.”

“The severity of illness people are experiencing is alarming and we must get the word out that using e-cigarettes and vaping can be dangerous,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike says. “We requested a team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help us investigate these cases and they arrived in Illinois on Tuesday.”

Vaping and e-cigarettes have been around for nearly a decade, but have taken the world by storm in the past couple of years. The vaping craze is particularly affecting the youth community.

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The use of e-cigarettes went up among middle and high school students from 2011 to 2018. The CDC reports.

In fact, in 2018, nearly 1 of every 20 middle school students reported that they used electronic cigarettes in the past 30 days—an increase from 0.6% in 2011.

That may not sound like much. However, in 2018, 1 in 5 high school students reported that they used electronic cigarettes in the past 30 days. In 2011, the number was 1.5%.

Officials are unsure whether the illnesses are caused by the vaping devices or the products being inhaled. THC is the main ingredient for causing the “high” in marijuana.  Many of those afflicted with these illnesses cited the use of THC.

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“However, no specific product has been identified in all cases, nor has any product been conclusively linked to illnesses.” The IDPH report states. “Even though cases appear similar, it is not clear if these cases have a common cause or if they are different diseases with similar symptoms.”

Recently, major companies have heightened the vaping debate by disputing claims made by the IDPH and CDC. Whatever side you’re on, it’s important to know the facts, stay safe, and be careful about what you consume.