The CDC is currently investigating over 450 cases of severe lung illness in at least 33 states, including five
deaths, that are potentially linked to the use of e-cigarettes. Recently, health care providers in Kentucky were
asked to begin reporting cases.
The most common symptoms of this severe lung illness include cough, shortness of breath and chest pain.
Based on reports from several states, patients have also experienced fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever
or weight loss. Although some of these symptoms may be common at this time of year, those who use
e-cigarettes and experience any of the above symptoms should contact their health care provider immediately.
While the use of THC, the mind-altering chemical in marijuana, was documented in many of the cases, no
specific product has been identified as the cause for the illness at this time. The CDC investigation is on-going.
One common factor, however, was the use of an e-cigarette device. E-cigarette devices are highly popular
among youth. Use of e-cigarettes by youth in Kentucky is higher than the national average, and the rate of use
has more than doubled from 2016 to 2018, as measured by the Kentucky Incentives for Prevention (KIP)
To help prevent more cases, NKY Health recommends the following actions:
- Talk with your students about e-cigarette use and warn them of the potential hazards of using these
- Advise parents to contact their child’s doctor immediately if the child has any of the above symptoms,
especially if they are having serious breathing problems for no known reason.
- Incorporate the use of e-cigarettes in your tobacco-free school policy, and include the use of an
alternative to suspension program for students in violation of the policy.
- Contact NKY Health (firstname.lastname@example.org) to schedule a Train the Trainer session for
teachers on e-cigarette use or an alternative to suspension program, or if you would like additional
educational materials such as posters, a prepared e-cigarette presentation to use with parents and
students, or assistance with developing or implementing your tobacco-free schools policy.
According to NKY Health’s District Director of Health, Lynne Saddler, MD, MPH, “This illness highlights the
potential dangers of vaping, especially with THC, but also with nicotine. Many people think that e-cigarette
liquid just contains water and flavorings; however, most e-cigarettes contain nicotine and/or other chemicals.
They do not realize the very serious impact on their lungs and the rest of their body. If you are not using
e-cigarettes or vaping, do not start. If you are currently using e-cigarettes or vaping, get help to quit.”
For more information on e-cigarettes, health risks associated with vaping, and how to quit using e-cigarettes or
tobacco products, please visit https://nkyhealth.org/individual-or-family/individual-health/e-cigarettes/