More than 200 patients nationwide are being treated for a life-threatening respiratory condition apparently related to vaping. It’s marked by severe shortness of breath typically after a few days of nausea, fever and fatigue. Some patients have had to go on ventilators.

Patients tend to be in their late teens or early twenties and otherwise healthy. Their reluctance to discuss their behavior is making it harder for doctors to determine a cause of the illness.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told vapers to avoid bootleg products and to stop modifying vapes.

From the New York Times:

To become inhalable, nicotine or THC must be mixed with solvents that dissolve and deliver the drugs. The solvents, or oils, heat up during aerosolization to become vapor. But some oil droplets may be left over as the liquid cools back down, and inhaling those drops may cause breathing problems and lung inflammation.

“Inhaling oil into your lungs is extremely dangerous behavior that could result in death,” said Thomas Eissenberg, who studies vaping at Virginia Commonwealth University…

Many vaping ingredients are not listed on the products. Vitamin E oil appears to have been a common substance associated with the severe and sudden respiratory problems in some of the New York cases, according to state health officials. It is not known how it was used. Vitamin E is sometimes advertised as a supplement in cannabidiol oil, which is not designed for vaping but has been used that way.

  • Theories of what’s causing the disease include a toxin introduced into the product supply, contaminated reused cartridges and heavy use of nicotine and/or THC vapes.
  • On lung scans the illness first looks like severe viral or bacterial pneumonia, but tests show no infection.
  • One doctor said four patients she had seen “have been doing e-cigarettes with nicotine constantly, like round the clock. Maybe there’s some sort of accelerant effect causing inflammation in the lung caused by the THC oil.”
  • Kevin Burns, CEO of e-cigarette giant Juul said he did not know of any link between the illness and Juul products.