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Vaping Raises Concerns at Local Schools, Health Systems

The use of e-cigarettes and vaping has been making national headlines as at least six people around the country have died recently and many more have become ill...

The use of e-cigarettes and vaping has been making national headlines as at least six people around the country have died recently and many more have become ill from using the devices.

As of Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there are 380 confirmed or probable cases of lung disease associated with vaping and some of those cases hit close to home.

Just last week, Newswatch 16 shared the story of a Bloomsburg University sophomore Kevin Boclair. He is on life support in a hospital near Philadelphia. Doctors say his asthma was worsened by his vaping habit.

Boclair's condition is improving, according to his family.

Dr. Sree Naik is a pulmonary specialist at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical center near Wilkes-Barre. She says vaping-related illnesses are becoming more frequent in our area.

"The most concerning thing about this group of patients that we're seeing are that they're very young. They're not 60 year olds that have been smoking for decades and decades. These people are in the lower end of the age in their 20s," Dr. Naik said.

Dr. Naik says Geisinger Wyoming Valley has treated three patients in the past two weeks for vaping-related illnesses

UPMC has recently treated 23 patients throughout its health system.

St. Luke's University Health Network reports treating up to 10 patients over the past few months. Six of them needed life support due to fluid in the lungs.

Lehigh Valley Health Network has treated a young person with a history of vaping for an unexplained lung condition.

While vaping and other types of e-cigarettes aren't necessarily new to medical professionals, there's still a lot of uncertainty around the long-term medical effects.

"Presentation from patient to patient has been a little bit different in terms of how it looks in the pictures, but they seem to have low oxygen levels and enflamed lungs," said Dr. Naik.

Health providers aren't the only ones concerned. David Rosenkrans is the vice principal of Lakeland Junior/Senior High School.

"We have seen a tremendous increase in the amount of students that have been vaping, as opposed to what we've gotten in terms of tobacco or chew. It seems like more students are going toward the vapes," Rosenkrans said.

Rosenkrans says information about the potential dangers of vaping has been added to health classes, but it is the unknown about vaping that they can't teach in the classroom," Rosenkrans said. "We're kind of in that limbo of not really knowing what's in these devices and what's in the products that are coming out. And I think a lot of these students don't understand that there could be an imminent danger that is out there."

Rosenkrans says he's not aware of any Lakeland students who have gotten sick from vaping.

Dr. Naik says that if you are experiencing symptoms you believe may be a result of vaping, contact your doctor immediately.