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Teen spent 10 days on a ventilator after his lungs failed. Doctors think vaping is to blame.

For 10 days, machines kept 17-year-old Tryston Zohfeld alive while doctors tried to determine why this formerly healthy, athletic teen’s lungs were failing. After multiple tests yielded no clear diagnosis, doctors concluded that Tryston’s vaping habit, which his parents didn’t even know about, might be responsible.

“I think the day they intubated him was probably the worst day of my life,” said Tryston’s father, Matt Zohfeld. “They did the X-ray and it was completely cloudy, all the way through his lungs.”

One of Tryston’s doctors, pulmonologist Karen Schultz, said the teen had caused enough irritation and damage to scar his lungs.

Federal health officials are investigating a sharp increase in the number of severe lung illnesses possibly linked to vaping. They’re now looking into 153 cases — up from the 94 cases we reported earlier this week — and most involve adolescents and young adults who used e-cigarettes. There are now cases in 16 states, two more than earlier reported. While no deaths have been reported, for many, the lung disease has been serious, with potential long-term consequences.

“There has been an astronomical increase of teens and young adults who are using e-cigarettes,” said University of Alabama at Birmingham pediatrician Dr. Susan Walley. “We’re also seeing a lot more teens with use that implies they have very high levels of addiction.”

The CDC says no specific vaping product has been conclusively linked to all the illnesses. In a statement to CBS News, leading e-cigarette manufacturer Juul says it’s “monitoring these reports and we have robust safety monitoring systems in place …. Reporting also suggests the teenagers were vaping both nicotine and THC, a schedule 1, controlled substance that we do not sell.”

The CDC says in many cases patients did tell health officials they had recently used vaping products with THC, an active ingredient in marijuana, in addition to traditional e-cigarettes with nicotine.

“The major point that I would like to get across to parents is that e-cigarettes are not safe,” Walley said. “We’re seeing some very, very concerning health effects and we really don’t know exactly what the long-term data is going to show.”

Tryston’s doctor says the scarring in his lungs could have a lasting effect, but he’s expected to live what she calls a “fairly normal life.” With this latest report, the CDC is putting the nation’s health care workers on alert about the spike in lung illnesses, and urging them to look out for a possible connection to e-cigarette use.

CBS News