Inhaling a 'chemistry experiment': Colorado confirms second case of vaping-related lung illness

Posted at 11:14 AM, Aug 29, 2019

DENVER — Colorado state health officials have confirmed a second case of a vaping-related lung illness.

Dr. Tony Cappello with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) confirmed the case on Thursday morning in a press conference with Rep. Diana DeGette. He said they determined the illness was related to vaping on Wednesday evening.

During the press conference, DeGette introduced the Stopping Appealing Flavors in E-Cigarettes for Kids Act (SAFE Kids Act), which would impose new restrictions on tobacco flavors in e-cigarettes, and the Tobacco to 21 Act, which would prohibit the sale of tobacco products to people under 21 years old.

State officials confirmed the first case of a vaping-related lung illness on Aug. 22. In a press release, they said the patient was a young adult. The following day, Tista Ghosh with CDPHE told Denver7 that they were investigating three suspected cases, but had not yet confirmed any of them. The three suspected cases involved adult patients. It was not clear if any of these suspected cases are connected to the second confirmed case.

All of the cases involved patients who live along the Front Range.

READ MORE: Should Colorado tax smokers to stop teen vaping?

“Outbreaks like this can be unsettling,” Cappello said. “We can't pinpoint the specific cause of these illnesses, but we know that vaping products are poorly regulated. They contain more than just harmless water vapor. The long-term health effects of vaping are still not known.”

He said Colorado currently has the highest teen vaping rate in the nation.

The illnesses appear to be linked to the use of e-cigarettes and other vaping liquids or oils that contained either nicotine, marijuana, CBD, synthetic marijuana, or a combination of them, according to the CDPHE.

Health officials are urging users and parents to understand the risks of these vaping-related illnesses and the symptoms, which include shortness of breath, chest pain, cough, fatigue and fever.

As of Aug. 17, more than 120 cases of lung disease in 15 states may be linked to vaping, according to a CNN survey of state health departments. Multiple others are still under investigation and not yet confirmed.

In these cases, health officials said it remains unclear if there’s a connection between the cases or if vaping is definitively the cause of the illnesses, CNN reported.

Locally, Colorado groups have started to make moves against vaping in recent months. Most recently, Boulder City Council made a move Wednesday evening to ban the sale of flavored vaping products containing nicotine, and increase the minimum purchasing age to 21. In late May, students in Douglas County were featured in a public health advertisement against using vaping to deal with the stress of high school.

The Colorado Attorney General's Office has launched an investigation into Juul over deceptive marketing tactics, and the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that the Federal Trade Commission was investigating the company's marketing practices as well. Both investigations come as officials scrutinize whether the company's marketing led to an influx of youth usage.

Dr. Robin Deterding with Children’s Hospital Colorado said vaping is “simply bad” for kids.

“Let's be clear: Kids are not little adults, in many ways, and certainly related to their lungs,” she said. “We breathe 20,000 times a day. It's a lifetime of impact if you begin inhaling these early.”

She said they have seen biopsies that look different based on what sort of vaping products the individuals are inhaling.

“This is a chemistry experiment that you're inhaling,” she said.

Degette said there has been a lack of awareness, even among members of Congress, about the dangers of vaping. Recent serious illnesses around the country are helping raise awareness, she said.

Any user who has a lung illness or has had one since June 1, 2019 is encouraged to contact their doctor.

If you believe you or somebody you know has this illness, contact CDPHE’s Disease Reporting Line at 303-692-2700. After hours, call 303-370-9395. For more information on quitting, visit

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