DPH: Number of vaping-related illnesses rising quickly in Massachusetts

Number of vaping-related illnesses rising quickly in Massachusetts

BOSTON — New statistics released Tuesday morning show the number of vaping related illnesses in Massachusetts is rising quickly.

State health officials say 38 patients are believed to have a lung illness caused by e-cigarettes.

That's up from 10 last week when public officials began requiring doctors to report possible cases to the state.

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"That's a lot of cases in a short period of time," said Dr. Jonathan Winickoff of Mass. General Hospital for Children. "And I worry that we're going to see a lot more."

All hospitals in the state are required to report any lung cases connected to e-cigarette use to the Department of Public Health.

Just this week, the Centers for Disease Control activated its emergency operations center to coordinate the investigation into hundreds of cases of severe lung illnesses linked to e-cigarette use.

The CDC updated its nationwide tally to 380 cases in 36 states. Seven deaths have been reported so far, with the most recent coming in California, where, now, two people have died.

"So, as a pediatrician, it was rare for me to see any tobacco users at all," said Dr. Winickoff. "Now, there's rarely a person who comes in who isn't using themselves or has a friend who's using."

"We're seeing kids that are reporting extensive vaping from as early as the fifth grade who are now in middle and high school," said Dr. Eleanore Muise of Boston Children's Hospital.

Muise is a pediatric pulmonary fellow at the hospital.

"We've seen a number of severe lung-related vaping cases," she said. "We've reported seven from Boston Children's Hospital. Some have ended up in the pediatric intensive care unit with enengicyilc pnuemonia."

There is a bill in the statehouse to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products, which many argue are simply intended to target children. If it passes, it would make Massachusetts the first state in the country to do so.

Both Dr. Muise and Dr. Winickoff were at the State House on Tuesday to support the legislation.

"Some of these can be very serious where the child feels like, or the young adult feels like, they're drowning but they're in dry land," Dr. Winickoff said of the reactions many youths are having. "These are basically allergic reactions in the lungs."