UHS, Health Promotion and Wellness caution students on e-cigarettes and vaping

September 30, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State University Health Services (UHS) and Health Promotion and Wellness (HPW) caution students on the effects of electronic cigarettes and vaping, in light of nationally reported cases of severe lung damage.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other health departments/partners are investigating a multistate outbreak of lung injury associated with use of e-cigarette products. 

As of Sept. 27, the CDC reports that there have been 805 cases of lung injury associated with e-cigarettes or vaping in 46 states and one U.S. territory, and 12 deaths have been confirmed in 10 states. The CDC has found that nearly two-thirds of patients (62%) are 18-34 years old, with 22% of patients between the ages of 18 and 21. All reported cases have a history of e-cigarette product use or vaping. Based on initial data, the CDC says most patients report a history of using e-cigarette products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), many report using THC and nicotine, and some have reported the use of e-cigarette products containing only nicotine.

Below are answers to frequently asked questions from the CDC about vaping and e-cigarettes.

What are some key facts about e-cigarettes and vaping?

  • Electronic cigarettes — or e-cigarettes — are also called vapes, e-hookahs, vape pens, and electronic nicotine delivery systems.
  • Using an e-cigarette product is commonly called vaping.
  • E-cigarettes work by heating a liquid to produce an aerosol that users inhale into their lungs.
  • The liquid can contain nicotine, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabinoid (CBD) oils, and other substances and additives.

What is causing this outbreak of lung injury?

  • All reported cases have a history of e-cigarette product use, or vaping, according to the CDC.
  • The CDC investigation has not identified any specific product or substance that is linked to all cases.
  • Most, but not all, patients have reported using e-cigarettes containing THC. Many report using THC and nicotine. Some report using nicotine-containing products only.

What are the symptoms?

  • Patients in this outbreak have reported symptoms such as:
    • Cough, shortness of breath or chest pain.
    • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.
    • Fatigue, fever or abdominal pain.
  • Some patients have reported that their symptoms developed over a few days while others have reported that their symptoms developed over several weeks. A lung infection does not appear to be causing the symptoms.

How can I protect myself?

  • Until more information is available, if you’re concerned about these specific health risks, the CDC recommends that you consider refraining from using e-cigarette or vaping products.
  • Anyone who uses an e-cigarette or vaping product should not buy these products (e.g., e-cigarette or vaping products with THC or CBD oils) off the street and should not modify or add any substances to these products that are not intended by the manufacturer.
  • If you use e-cigarettes because you have quit cigarette smoking, do not return to smoking cigarettes.
  • The CDC recommends that individuals who do not currently use tobacco products should not start using e-cigarette products.

What should I do if I have used e-cigarettes and have symptoms?

  • See your health care provider or schedule an appointment with UHS right away if you have symptoms like those reported in this outbreak.
  • You can call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.
  • You can submit a detailed report of any unexpected health or product issues related to tobacco or e-cigarette products to the FDA via the online Safety Reporting Portal.

What resources does Penn State have to assist in quitting smoking and/or vaping?

  • Health Promotion and Wellness offers the Freshstart Program, which is a free, four-week program to help students quit smoking and/or vaping. The program is facilitated by a health educator who has received training from the American Cancer Society. 
  • University Health Services offers individual consultation to students who wish to quit smoking. Consultations are facilitated by a health care provider during a regular medical exam.

If you have any symptoms of lung injury or suspect you may have been affected, call the UHS Advice Nurse at 814-863-4463 or set up an appointment via myUHS.

For additional information, review the following resources:

Last Updated October 10, 2019