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Local doctor warns about vaping after lung illnesses spike

The number of serious lung injuries linked to vaping has spiked across the United States.

Doctors are warning about vaping after a local teenager and many others suffered severe lung damage.

The number of serious lung injuries linked to vaping has spiked across the United States with nearly 3,000 people of all ages being hospitalized and six deaths.

Dr. Nathan Tobey at Fayetteville Diagnostic Clinic says the 19-year-old patient he treated had no prior health issues but had been vaping products that contained THC.

"Some of these acute injuries we have seen, not all of these people's lungs will go back to normal," Dr. Tobey said. "Sometimes the inflammation in the lungs is so profound that they may have lingering scar in the lung."

The patient was admitted to Washington Regional's Intensive Care Unit.

"We treated him with a really high does iv steroids for a few days," Dr. Tobey said.

He was sent home after about a week in the hospital, but this wasn't the only case of vaping related illnesses doctors in our area have treated.

"We personally saw six within our group here in Northwest Arkansas," Dr. Tobey said.

Those numbers growing at an alarming rate, not just coast to coast, but here where you live.

"What we saw at Washington Regional was consistent with what the national trends were," Dr. Tobey said. "Which is around August and September, there was this huge proliferation of these cases and I think that's when it started getting attention in the media. I think all total it ended up being 2,700 hospitalizations."

Those with vaping related illnesses seem to be getting younger in age. Doctors locally treated patients ages 25 and younger.

That's what's at the center of a local push to stop teens from vaping.

"Trying to keep up with the vaping epidemic has been extremely difficult. Two years ago, one in 10 students reported they were vaping and two years later in 2019 it's one in four," said Serena Munns, NWA and River Valley Executive Director of the American Heart Association.

Munns says the organization, school superintendents, doctors and lawmakers will be meeting this month to come up with a plan to attack what they're calling a fast epidemic.

"We are very excited to have a place at the table with lawmakers effectively making legislation that could help slow this epidemic," Munns said.

Enacting laws to inhibit vaping use in teens could be centered around similar laws used to curve cigarette use.

"Some of those included education, taxation as well as being able to provide strategies hotline resources for doctors," Munns said.

The meeting with lawmakers will be held before the next Arkansas Legislative session gets underway in February of next year.

In December of 2019, a new law changed the federal minimum age to buy all tobacco products from 18 to 21. This includes cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and vaping cartridges.

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