LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Health experts say they are concerned that vaping could cause long-term, widespread health issues.
“I don’t think we’ll ever say it’s as bad as cigarette smoking, but who knows,” said Dr. Victor Test with Texas Tech Health Sciences Center. “Because 70 years ago, people actually thought smoking was good for your lungs.”
Dr. Test is Chief of the Pulmonary and Critical Care Division at the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center.
He says just as time has turned up a mountain of evidence to prove cigarette smoking can be deadly, he is concerned that time could turn against vaping.
“Hopefully we won’t be 50 years down the road and hoping we’d acted sooner,” said Dr. Test.
As the vaping epidemic sweeps the nation, more than 2,000 hospital patients are revealing lung damage linked to vaping, and Lubbock is on that list.
“At University Medical Center, I know of three cases that we felt were likely vaping related lung injury in young people who were otherwise quite healthy,” said Dr. Test.
"And when they present to the hospital they are significantly hypoxic, low oxygen saturations and the chest x-rays are abnormal, "said Dr. Gilbert Berdine.
Dr. Gilbert Berdine stands behind the evidence, which is a CT scan of a chest x-ray from a vaper who came to UMC with extreme shortness of breath.
“Here is his CT scan at the time of admission on the left,” said Dr. Berdine. “And here is an essentially normal CT scan.”
Dr. Berdine explains the black area is basically air, and that’s good. However, the vaper’s lungs are filled with fluid, somewhat like the cloud that vaping produces.
Dr. Test says it is ironic that the vaping cloud is so much bigger than the smoke produced from a cigarette.
“You watch someone exhale a cloud of vapor,” said Dr. Test. “It is astounding at the volume and the size of the cloud that emanates from them when they exhale."
There are even blogs with tips on how to make your vape cloud bigger. Standing in the Cath lab, Dr. Test explains what that cloud could mean to the heart, since vaping includes a significant amount of nicotine.
“The effects of nicotine on cardiovascular system are well documented,” said Dr. Test. “It increases heart rate. It increases blood pressure both systolic and diastolic. It can cause constricture of the blood vessels.”
It is the lung injury that we are hearing more about right now, and he says the odds are not good.
“Acute lung injury has a mortality rate of about 30 percent,” said Dr. Test. “30 percent is a pretty high risk to take. It is a gamble that people take. There have been deaths associated with vaping."
Most agree there will be more illnesses and deaths from vaping until people can be convinced of the danger.