In the days after the numbers were reported, a 17-year-old boy received a double lung transplant because of scarring on his lungs blamed on vaping.
“This is an evil that I haven't faced before," Dr. Hassan Nemeh, a thoracic specialist at Henry Ford Health System, said during a news conference after the surgery.
According to government tracking, more than 2,000 people have now been sickened by vaping and at least 40 people have died. The average age, according to the data, is in the low-20s.
“A year and a half ago, I was ready to retire, since we had so few referrals for tobacco,” said Holly Kowalczk of St. Luke’s Hospital’s Nicotine Independence Center. “The national smoking rates were between 9 and 11 percent, so I thought it was time to retire, but then vaping happened.”
Kowalczk has worked with students as young as elementary school-aged, she said. In the local data collected by 11 Investigates, multiple schools reported incidents with younger students. Oregon reported two incidents at Eisenhower Intermediate and 19 at Fassett Junior High over the three-year period. In Spencerville Local in Allen County, 13 middle school students were disciplined.
“Students will vape in restrooms, in classrooms, going down the hall,” Kowalczk said. “It’s very hard for the administration to detect. This problem is way, way bigger than we ever imagined.”
A handful of local districts are purchasing or considering the purchase of vape detectors. Springfield is expected to purchase vape detectors at some point next year.
“We have great kids, but great kids sometimes do the wrong thing,” Superintendent Matt Geha told WTOL. “We want to do whatever we can to prevent that first time.”