Vaping and lung illness

Current outbreak: 4 cases*

  • Colorado is one of multiple states investigating sudden and severe lung illness associated with vaping.

  • While this investigation is ongoing and the definitive cause of reported illnesses remains uncertain, people should consider not using vaping products.

  • The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is investigating all cases reported to us to determine if they meet the case definition being used nationally.

  • This page will be updated weekly, on Wednesdays.

*A confirmed case is someone who recently used a vaping product, developed a breathing illness, and for whom testing did not show an infection. Other common causes of illness have been ruled out as the primary cause.  A probable case is someone who recently used a vaping product, developed a breathing illness, and for whom some tests have been performed to rule out infection. Other common causes of illness have been ruled out as the primary cause.

What we know

  • While we can’t pinpoint the specific cause of these serious lung illnesses, we do know vaping products are poorly regulated and may contain or generate chemicals that are unsafe, potentially making people sick. 

  • No consistent vaping product, substance, or additive has been identified in all cases, nor has any one product or substance been conclusively linked to pulmonary disease in patients. CDC has, however, warned of the potential of lipoid pneumonia associated with this outbreak. This can be caused by inhaling oil.

  • Vaping products contain more than just harmless water vapor. They are marketed as a “safe” alternative to smoking, but the long-term health effects of vaping are still unknown.

  • Colorado currently has the highest vaping rates in the nation among teens.

  • With the large number of cases of lung illness we’re seeing nationally, it’s clear there are dangers associated with vaping.

What people can do

  • The best way to protect yourself against vaping-related illness is to stop vaping.  While this investigation is ongoing and the definitive cause of reported illnesses remains uncertain, people should consider not using vaping products.
  • People who vape should be aware that this illness is occurring and be on the lookout for symptoms:
    • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
    • Chest pain
    • Cough.
    • Fatigue.
    • Possible fever.
  • People who think they may have been sickened by any vaping product should contact their doctor, local public health agency. or poison control at 1-800-222-1222.
  • Parents should talk to their kids, especially teens, about the risks and dangers of vaping. Free resources are available to help parents talk to their kids at tobaccofreeco.org
What people should avoid
  • Do not buy vaping products off the street (for example, vaping products with THC or other cannabinoids).
  • Do not modify vaping products or add any substances to these products that are not intended by the manufacturer.
What Colorado public health is doing

The state health department is leading the investigation in Colorado and working diligently with local, state and national partners to find cases and trace the illnesses to their source. Our work includes:

  • A team of environmental epidemiologists dedicated to outbreak work.

  • Coordination with the state lab and the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division to collect and test product samples.

  • System enhancements to help us more quickly review health data and find suspected cases.

  • Guidance to local public health agencies and health care providers, who have been asked to report all potential cases to us.

  • Public education campaigns to educate youth about the dangers of vaping and encouraging parents, teachers and other trusted adults to talk with youth about vaping.

Information for health care providers