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Vaping-Related Lung Illness Alarms the Nation and Hits Close to Home

Date: 10/07/19

The vaping epidemic has quickly become a public health crisis with the national outbreak of vaping-related severe lung illness reported by more than 450 people across the country.1 This includes 15 Ohio cases all of which are young people ages 16 to 26.Health officials anticipate the number to continue to rise.

Ohio is responding with Governor Mike DeWine looking into placing a ban on all flavored e-cigarette products in the State. Also, the Ohio Department of Health committed to spend $4.1 million and the State plans to spend $3.3 million to increase education about e-cigarettes and provide community resources to curb use.4 Another $800,000 will go to public education campaigns on vaping and the statewide Tobacco 21 law taking effect on October 17.2

“While research is preliminary and it’s too early to pin down a single product or substance that is linked to this illness, we’re encouraging all Ohioans to stop using e-cigarettes and seek help quitting,” said Dr. Ron Suprenant, Buckeye Health Plan Medical Director and Addiction Specialist. “We applaud Governor DeWine, the Ohio Department of Health and the State for taking swift action to provide the education and resources our communities, and especially our youth, desperately need.”

Tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable death in Ohio, with cigarettes causing over 20,000 deaths per year.3 And, with a startling 48 percent increase in vaping among middle schoolers and a 78 percent increase in vaping among high schoolers last year alone, now is a critical time for action.4

Many experts point to the shape of e-cigarettes, specifically those shaped like USB flash drives, pens or other everyday items, as the main reason for the increase. They are easy to conceal, often used in bathrooms and even classrooms. Plus, some e-cigarette brands market flavors that appeal to youth including mint, menthol, bubblegum, candy, fruit, alcohol and other flavors. This has led President Trump to work with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on a ban of all e-cigarette flavors, aside from tobacco flavoring, in all retail channels.5

“More students are vaping because many believe it’s safer than traditional tobacco products. Plus, they are easier to disguise,” said Dr. Suprenant. “You can disguise the odor, you don’t need a lighter, you can easily hide them and the flavors can be appealing. The biggest problem is that many students don’t realize the serious health side effects.”

In addition to the link to severe lung illness, many health risks have been identified: 

  • E-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is highly addictive and can harm the developing brain, impacting learning, memory and attention in youth.6
  • E-cigarette emissions can contain harmful chemicals, including nicotine and volatile organic compounds, placing children exposed to first and secondhand smoke at higher risk because of their developing lungs.3
  • The vast majority of smokers start before age 18 in middle and high school.4 Using nicotine in adolescence may increase risk for future addiction to other drugs, including serving as a gateway to traditional cigarettes.4

Tobacco education and prevention are critical to curbing this epidemic. There are steps parents and caregivers can take too, including:

  • Talk to your children about the health dangers of e-cigarettes, including addiction. 
  • Establish a no-smoking zone in your home and car. 
  • Be a role model by living tobacco-free. 
  • Ask your pediatrician to talk with your children about the dangers. 
  • Reinforce school anti-tobacco programs at home. 

For more information on this topic, please view Buckeye's Teen Vaping Facts (PDF) infographic. 

“Being a positive role model by living tobacco-free has a strong influence in curbing children’s tobacco use. But, it can be hard for those who are currently using tobacco,” says Dr. Suprenant. “Buckeye is committed to helping our members quit tobacco use by making treatment available through counseling and tobacco cessation medications and aids. I recommend anyone looking to quit tobacco to start by talking with their physician.”


1. NPR. CDC Says Number of Possible Cases of Vaping-Related Lung Illness has Doubled. September 6, 2019. Retrieved from:

2. The Columbus Dispatch. Ohio Health Department to Spend $4.1 Million to Curb Vaping, Especially Among Youth. September 10, 2019. Retrieved from:

3. The Ohio Department of Health. Tobacco Data and Statistics. August 22, 2018. Retrieved from:

4. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. 2018 NYTS Data: A Startling Rise in Youth E-cigarette Use. Retrieved September 11, 2019 from:

5. Reuters. Trump Administration Seeks Ban on Flavored E-cigarettes to Combat Youth Addiction. September 11, 2019. Retrieved from:

6. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. E-cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General. July 2018. Retrieved from: