Julie Kirkpatrick of Taylor Mill says vaping put her daughter in the hospital last fall with the mysterious lung ailment recently afflicting users of e-cigarettes. Her child is healing now, so Kirkpatrick aims to kick off a campaign Thursday to help parents confront and fight the vaping habit.
“We haven’t been open enough about what this is. It’s smoking. It’s not vaping. Vaping sounds cool. But this is smoking,” she said.
“When Lily was in the hospital, I was of course extremely upset. That led me to action. I made a Facebook post about our experience, and I want parents to talk to their kids honestly and talk frankly about smoking, Juuling, vaping, inhaling anything that they probably shouldn’t be inhaling.”
Kirkpatrick, vice president of sales and marketing for the tourism agency meetNKY, will deliver the keynote address to a public forum Thursday on e-cigarettes and vaping. The event, hosted by the Northern Kentucky Health Department, is from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Jan. 23 at the Ignite Institute in Erlanger.
Last summer, public health officials detected a rise in an unusual lung injury in people using e-cigarettes or vaporizers. The devices heat liquids to vapor, which users inhale.
Reporting as of Jan. 14, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has counted 2,668 hospitalizations or deaths from the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Sixty deaths have been confirmed. Teenagers and young adults account for slightly more than half the cases.
The CDC says the outbreak peaked in August and has declined every month since September.
No one knows what is causing the disease, although scientists at the Bond Hill laboratory of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are investigating. So far, officials suspect that an additive used in bootleg vape cartridges, Vitamin E acetate, is connected.
Kirkpatrick said her daughter’s October stay at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center occurred after more than a year of the teenager using the Juul vaporizer starting at 15. Kirkpatrick said the family “fought, without a doubt, a war” to get Lily to quit using the device to inhale nicotine, with bargaining, lower-nicotine pods and replacement therapy.
“We’ve learned a lot about what we call Mr. Juul,” Kirkpatrick said, including that teenagers sell or trade Juuls to each other.
“I don’t think a lot of parents know this either. She was doing it in front of us, and we didn’t know what it was. By the time we figured out what it was, our child was addicted to nicotine.” One Juul “pod” packs the same addictive wallop as a pack and a half of cigarettes.
For a while, Kirkpatrick believed Lily had quit using, but she hadn’t. Lily’s 18-year-old boyfriend was purchasing units for her. “I can’t really blame him,” Kirkpatrick said. “If she hadn’t gotten them from him, she would have gotten them from someone else.”
Then Lily got sick with what looked like stomach flu, “and you end up in Children’s Hospital, and you find out it’s a lung infection caused by vaping.”
When the doctor asked Lily if she had been vaping, she reached into her pocket, pulled out the Juul device and gave it to her mother.
After nearly a week in the hospital, Lily was discharged, and this month, her doctor has pronounced her healing well. She can never smoke again, and she is to avoid other irritants. Kirkpatrick decided to go public with her family’s journey to offer insight and guidance.
“Parents need some help,” she said. “That’s what’s going to be discussed at the (Thursday) forum, to help your kids stop, and make your kids smarter about what’s going on.”