ATLANTA — The Georgia Poison Center says it's received 19 reports of people suffering lung illnesses at emergency rooms in recent weeks, and it says the cause is vaping.
The finding comes after the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 17 people have died from vaping across the country.
In a study at Georgia State University, researchers found e-cigarettes are not very effective in getting people to stop smoking tobacco and that people many end up using both.
At the Georgia Poison Center, employees field many calls from emergency rooms. In recent weeks, the center told Channel 2's Tom Regan it has had nearly 20 cases involving patients suffering from respiratory ailments from vaping.
"In Georgia, we are starting to see cases reported more frequently," said Dr. Gaylord Lopez, with the Georgia Poison Center. "Gagging, choking, shortness of breath, chest pains."
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The center said most of the patients were in their 20s and 30s but some were also teenagers.
About a quarter of the patients reported vaping liquid THC.
"THC products are definitely in the mix, and it's mainly those ones that are produced underground, bootleg-type products," said Lopez.
Many people use e-cigarettes to wean themselves off combustible tobacco. But a study done by researchers at GSU found that rarely works.
The study examined 800 people who were dual users -- using e-cigarettes and smoking regular cigarettes.
"We found the majority of them (at the end of a year) were still dual users, which is not that big of a surprise. What's really concerning is so many were rejecting the e-cig and going back to smoking," said GSU research professor David Ashley.
Ashley, who used to work at the CDC, told Regan that investigators will pinpoint a root cause of the lung injury outbreak.
In the meantime, many students at GSU said they are playing it safe.
"I just stay away from it altogether," student Colby Hall said.
"I know the harm it can cause, so I try to stay away from it," student Alexis Austin said.
"Are your vaping friends kind of scared of this?" Regan asked Austin.
"Yeah, they're scared, so they stopped," Austin said.
The state Health Department has confirmed 10 cases of vaping-related illness in Georgia, including one death linked to vaping.
Cox Media Group