Cases of severely damaged lungs in teens prompt investigation

Juul display in store VAPPING Getty.jpg

MADISON, Wis. - Children's Hospital of Wisconsin is partnering with the state to investigate eight hospitalizations of teens with severely damaged lungs suspected to be caused by vaping.

The exact causes of the illnesses are unknown. All patients reported vaping in the weeks or months prior to hospitalization, according to Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.

Lung disease causes coughing, shortness of breath and chest pain, symptoms teens and young adults shouldn't experience, according to Dr. Malcolm DeCamp, American Lung Association Upper Midwest Board vice chair.

"You're vaporizing chemicals, which includes nicotine, which provides the addictive part of it," DeCamp said. "There are heavy metals. There are flavors. There are other particulates that get deposited into the lung, and they are not regulated, so we have no control or understanding of what is in these things."

DeCamp says a part of the danger is the long-term effects, which are not yet fully understood because the product is new.

"It is a super challenge for us to understand what it would do to the lungs, especially to the developing lung," DeCamp said.

Someone has to be 18 years or older to purchase e-cigarettes, according to Wisconsin law.

Landon Meske, general manager of Knuckleheads, a local smoke shop, says he sees underage teens trying to purchase vape pods.

"We have ID scanners, and we scan every ID," Meske said. "Shops like us are doing everything they can and will not sell to minors, but that doesn't stop an older brother from coming in."

Meske says when new customers come in looking to make a switch from cigarettes, he suggests products without nicotine, like CBD.