GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — As of Dec. 17, more than 2,500 lung injury illnesses linked to vaping have been reported in all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and two U.S. territories. 

Fifty-four deaths have also been reported. This year, more than ever, vaping dominated health headlines. 

That's why some health experts are urging people to stop vaping in 2020. 

"What nobody anticipated was that the companies would start marketing to people who were not already smokers and they began marketing to kids," Spectrum Health Pulmonary Critical Care Dr. Shelley Schmidt said.

Spectrum Health regularly visits schools to encourage kids to stop vaping. 

"The important thing to realize is that this isn't about right or wrong, a good or bad kid or a good or bad parent," Dr. Schmidt said. "This is about trying to help our kids face an addiction that has been thrust on them by an industry that has known how to do this for decades."

Schmidt says vapes came to the market under the guise of being a safer alternative to cigarettes.

"Cigarettes kill 1,200 Americans every single day," Schmidt said. "You can't get more deadly than cigarettes, so being safer than cigarettes is an incredibly low bar."

Spectrum Health has had several cases of vape related illnesses.

"We've had several cases here within Spectrum that we've reported to the CDC of lung injuries that are so severe as to require life support," Schmidt said.

Most of those patients are young people. 

"Now we have this complete epidemic of nicotine-addicted middle school and high school students who are now going to have life long issues with addiction because of these devices," Schmidt said.

She says lungs are designed to only inhale oxygen — not chemicals. 

"Even if there are fewer chemicals in vapes than there are in a traditional combustible cigarette, what we're seeing nationally and locally is it's still damaging to the lung and it can cause injury and long term effects," Schmidt said.

Dr. Schmidt says 1 in 3 high school students have vaped within the last month and well over half of high schoolers have tried or experimented with it.

Spectrum Health offers classes to help people quit smoking and vaping. The CDC also has information on vape illnesses and how to quit.

Quit 101 

  • Free, four-week smoking cessation classes at Spectrum Health.
  • Classes begin 6 p.m. January 6 or January 10 in Grand Rapids
  • Preregistration required
  • Call 616.267.2626, option 4, then option 2
  • Email: breathefree@spectrumhealth.org

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