Massachusetts health officials are ordering doctors to immediately report suspected cases of vaping-related illnesses as federal officials plan to propose banning flavors used in e-cigarettes to combat a recent surge in underage vaping.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is actively investigating several suspected vaping-related illnesses.
“Vaping is clearly a major problem,” Irwin Buchwald, medical director of respiratory therapy at Lowell General Hospital, said Wednesday after officials confirmed a sixth person in the U.S. died from lung disease tied to vaping.
“Everyone who’s vaping should immediately stop until we learn what exactly is going on,” Buchwald said.
Nationally, 450 possible cases of severe lung disease associated with e-cigarettes or vaping have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In Massachusetts, there have been 10 suspected cases of vaping-related illnesses, according to the DPH. None of the cases have been confirmed.
Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel on Wednesday issued an order that requires doctors to report this emergent condition. Last month, DPH sent a clinical alert to 25,000 Massachusetts health care providers asking them to voluntarily report pulmonary-related disease associated with vaping.
“We are beginning to hear from clinicians about what they are seeing in their practice as a result of the health alert,” Bharel said in a statement. “Today’s action establishes the legal framework for healthcare providers to report cases and suspected cases so that we can get a better sense of the overall burden of disease in Massachusetts.”
Fares Mouchantaf, a pulmonologist at Beverly Hospital, applauded the DPH move, saying, “The hazards of vaping are not entirely understood. We really need to scrutinize vaping and put it under the microscope. We don’t want to repeat the same mistakes from 40 years ago, and try to get ahead of it as much as possible.”
Krishna Reddy, a pulmonologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, also said it’s important for the state to gather more information to find out what’s going on. In the meantime, he urged people to not use vaping products.
And for those who continue to vape in an effort to quit smoking, Reddy said they need to be “vigilant about developing any respiratory symptoms.”
Also on Wednesday, President Trump said his administration will propose banning thousands of flavors used in e-cigarettes to combat a recent surge in underage vaping. Trump said vaping has become such a problem that he wants parents to be aware of what’s happening.
Herald wire services contributed to this report.
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