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Area organizations try to tackle vaping epidemic

"We're seeing patients getting very very ill and that is somewhat scary," Dr. Jaspal Singh said.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Health officials are calling the number of vaping related illnesses and deaths a public health crisis.  

"We're seeing patients getting very very ill and that is somewhat scary," Atrium Health Dr. Jaspal Singh said, who's a pulmonologist.  

According to the CDC, 62% of patients with these lung illnesses are 18 to 34 years old. 16% are younger than 18.

The statistics are hitting close to home. According to the Youth Drug Survey, roughly one in five Mecklenburg County youth are using e-cigarettes by age 16.

"In the last two years, there's been an explosion," Dr. Jeffrey Cleary said, whose specialty is pediatric pulmonology. 

Dr. Cleary said there are several minors being treated for lung-related illnesses in Charlotte. 

"I know at least in our pediatric pulmonology clinic unit, we have at least half a dozen patients under the age of 18," Dr. Cleary said. 

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is giving $75,000 to local organizations, the Anuvia Prevention and Recovery Center, and The Center for Prevention Services.

The money will allow them to ramp up efforts to make sure retailers are complying with age limits. Also, they will be launching a media campaign warning people to avoid the product. This will include billboards, ads, even social media posts. 

Dr. Singh said it's a start to prevent youth from vaping, but more needs to be done. 

The Mayo Clinic also released a study saying lung injuries "may be caused by exposure to toxic chemical fumes." 

Dr. Singh said signs of lung-related illnesses from vaping can include coughing, shortness of breath, and children calling in sick to school.

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