Colorado couple on daughter's vaping illness: She was 'drawn in' by flavored e-cigarettes

Colorado doctors treating Tim and Ruby Johnson's eldest daughter, Piper, thought she exhibited the early symptoms of pneumonia when she came into the intensive care unit with a severely rapid heartbeat and extreme shortness of breath.

It wasn't until they saw their third doctor that anyone suspected a vaping-related illness, the Johnsons told "America's Newsroom" host Sandra Smith on Thursday.

Piper then admitted she had been vaping, explaining that a classmate had given her an e-cigarette.

"I didn't really think it was related to vaping until she told me," Ruby said.

NEBRASKA SEES 1ST VAPING-LINKED DEATH

Piper was diagnosed with Colorado's first case of a vaping-related illness.

The epidemic has caused numerous lung injuries, killing seven people so far, and sickening hundreds. Researchers say what was once advertised as a way to get cigarette smokers off their bad habit has become the first step in causing young addiction.

The epidemic has caused numerous lung injuries, killing seven people so far, and sickening hundreds. Researchers say what was once advertised as a way to get cigarette smokers off their bad habit has become the first step in causing young addiction. (Elina Shirazi)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is set to release new weekly statistics on the number of cases or probable cases of lung injury related to vaping or e-cigarettes. To date, 17 people have died nationwide as a result of lung injuries associated with vaping. There are currently 805 possible cases overall.

"Like so many teenagers, my daughter started with a Juul and was drawn in by the flavors," she said. "There's a lot of people that want to tie it to just illegal THC cartridges. And, we've been 100 percent honest that our daughter — the vast majority of what she vaped was nicotine. However, she did use THC."

Juul Labs Inc.'s Chief Operating Officer recently resigned. The top-selling e-cigarette company faces a slew of lawsuits that claim the company targets young people with its flavored nicotine products.

"Though her illness is indicative of this outbreak, it points to the bigger problem that we have, which is – you know – five million teens vaping," Ruby said.

"And these devices are meant to be hidden from parents. Their schools are under attack too. Our educators are just as desperate as we are to stop this because the kids can do this without being caught," she added.

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Doctors could not say what degree of permanent lung damage Piper may face, but her father Tim said she was "not anywhere close to 100 percent."

The Food and Drug Administration announced last week that it is conducting, along with the CDC, a criminal investigation into the nationwide epidemic.

"We support the flavor ban and we're so grateful to President Trump," Ruby concluded. "We hope that that happens really soon because I feel like we're facing the biggest adolescent public health crisis that we've seen in decades with our teenagers. The FDA has waited too long."