How Vaping Clinics Can Combat Lung Injury and More

In 2019, experts linked vaping to a rash of lung injuries. The CDC named the vaping-related lung illnesses “e-cigarette or vaping product use associated lung injury” or EVALI. Nearly 3,000 people had vaping-induced lung injury, and 68 people died from EVALI.

UPMC experts have set out to combat the vaping epidemic by launching a new Vaping Clinic.

We sat down with UPMC pulmonologists Shikha Gupta, MD, and Divay Chandra, MD, MSc, to learn more. Read on for more about the vaping clinic’s mission and the innovative research UPMC is conducting.

What Is Vaping?

Vapes or e-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat liquids into aerosols. Users then inhale these aerosols. The heated liquids typically contain nicotine but can also have marijuana, THC oil, CBD oil, and other chemicals.

Vaping was first marketed as a safer alternative to cigarettes, leading to their rise in popularity. Both vaping and cigarettes are dangerous and have health risks.

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How Is Vaping Harmful?

Many people understand that vaping nicotine can have health effects. However, they may not know that other parts of the vapor can also harm and cause lung illness.

“What people don’t realize is it’s not just the nicotine which is harmful. The vapors and aerosols that you are inhaling are also potentially harmful,” Dr. Gupta says.

The 2019 EVALI outbreak was primarily linked to the additive vitamin E acetate. Vape manufacturers add this synthetic form of vitamin E to thicken the liquid. The thick consistency makes this additive unsafe to inhale, as it can stick to the lungs for long periods.

In addition to vitamin E acetate, flavorings, and cannabis-derived ingredients can be harmful. The vaping device’s heating process can also create dangerous byproducts.

What Are Vaping-Induced Lung Injury Symptoms?

Symptoms of vaping-induced lung injury include:

  • Coughing.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Chest pain.
  • Coughing up mucus.
  • Wheezing.

What Services Does the UPMC Vaping Clinic Offer?

The UPMC Vaping Clinic sees people who vape and want their lung health assessed. We also see people who vape and have respiratory symptoms, including:

  • Recurrent respiratory infections.
  • Bronchitis.
  • Asthma-like symptoms.

Our team of experts offers:

  • Tailored support and education to people who vape.
  • Help quitting, including a referral to UPMC’s Tobacco Treatment Service, if needed.
  • Full testing of each person’s lung health. The testing includes a pulmonary function test (PFT) to find out how well the lungs work.

Advancing Research at UPMC

In addition to seeing patients, the Vaping Clinic studies vaping-related lung injury.

Divay Chandra, MD, MSc, and other UPMC experts formed the Electronic Cigarette Research Initiative. They work to better understand e-cigarettes and their effect on the lungs.

“If current trends continue, in two to three years, we will reach a landmark in U.S. public health,” Dr. Chandra says. “There will be more adults that use electronic cigarettes than conventional cigarettes.”

“Together, we are working to develop infrastructure, tools, and techniques to understand this problem and prepare for the future.”

UPMC is advancing research on vaping-induced lung injury and providing people with total lung care.

To schedule an appointment or learn more about the UPMC Vaping Clinic, visit our website or call 412-648-6161.

About Pulmonology

For people with breathing problems, allergies, and other lung conditions or diseases, UPMC’s pulmonary experts can help. Our Comprehensive Lung Center provides cutting-edge diagnosis and treatment for diseases of the respiratory and pulmonary systems, whether the condition is acute or chronic. We also operate specialty centers for cystic fibrosis, asthma, COPD and emphysema, pulmonary hypertension, lung transplants, interstitial lung diseases, and sleep disorders. Find an expert near you.