By David Schuman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minnesota’s Department of Health says 11 people have been hospitalized this summer with severe lung injuries related to vaping.

They used both THC and nicotine products, and some had to be admitted into the ICU.

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The patients’ median age was 18 years old, going as young as 14.

Elijah McClure of Brooklyn Park was put on a ventilator last year with symptoms of shortness of breath, headaches, and weakness.

At the time, he called it a “life or death” situation.

McClure started vaping when he was 14 years old.

“I feel blessed to still be here with you guys,” he said.

McClure hasn’t vaped since. He now speaks to high school students about what he went through.

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“You can’t control someone else,” McClure said. “I just try to tell them you saw the experience I went through. I would never wish that on anyone else and I hope it doesn’t happen to you.”

Vaping remains a significant concern for doctors and health officials during the pandemic.

“Anyone who is breathing in volatile heated up vapors into their lungs is going to be causing some degree of physical damage,” said Dr. Steve Delisi of the Hazelden Betty Ford addiction treatment center.

It can create the kind of pre-existing health condition that affects how a person responds to COVID-19.

Kris Ehresmann, the director of the MDH Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Prevention, and Control Division, says a vaping habit could lead to someone having more severe complications from COVID-19.

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Delisi also says the isolation of the pandemic makes things extra difficult for people struggling with addiction.

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He says overdose numbers are up for opioids, alcohol, cocaine and methamphetamine.

David Schuman