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What you need to know about e-cigarette use, vaping

In recent years, using an e-cigarette or vaping has seem to become a popular alternative to smoking. Many people have taken up this alternative way to use tobacco, as either a quit strategy or just a “less offensive” option to smoking. Many find it more accessible as smoking is often banned in public locations.

While vaping has become more popular, the medical community is asking users to not use e-cigarettes or vape due to unknown health consequences and lack of regulation in the industry.

As I am writing this, six people have died as a direct result of vaping and many more have fallen ill with severe respiratory symptoms or lung injuries. There is even one case of vaping-related severe lung disease in Wyoming, as reported by the Casper Star Tribune.

As of last week, more than 450 people have been affected, with symptoms becoming increasingly severe. The illness seems to take hold and progress rapidly. The deaths and illnesses are spread throughout 33 states and age does not seem to be a factor, although pre-existing conditions can exacerbate the illness.

While the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and state health departments have been investigating this outbreak of illness, they have not yet found a definitive cause or a clear connection between cases, but are narrowing down the potential links.

The FDA has created a Consumer Update to provide information for consumers to help protect themselves, as well as a new Lung Illnesses Associated with Use of Vaping Products webpage to provide an overview of these incidents and FDA’s actions to date, as well as recommendations for consumers, healthcare providers, and state health departments.

What you need to know:

  • Several states are conducting their own investigations and at this time. All reported cases have indicated the use of e-cigarette products. Some patients have also reported using e-cigarettes containing cannabinoid products, such as Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
  • Vitamin E acetate is now also "a key focus" of the state's investigation into the illnesses in New York. Some of the vaping products that have been found to contain vitamin E acetate are candy-flavored vapes.
  • While the federal and state level investigation tries to make headway into finding the direct cause of the lung injuries and illness, the CDC and several other health organizations have suggested that users of vaping products stop all use.

This week, the American Lung Association warned that, “E-cigarettes are not safe,” and can cause irreversible lung damage and disease. This includes e-cigarettes and tools like Juul.

In a written statement from the American Medical Association President, Dr. Patrice Harris said, “The AMA recommends anyone who has recently used e-cigarette products to seek medical care promptly if they experience any adverse health effects, particularly coughing, shortness of breath or chest pain.”

Learn more about e-cigarettes at the CDC webpage, About Electronic Cigarettes (E-Cigarettes).

CCH Rachel Conrad, Health Coach at WellnessQuestions?
Rachel Conrad, PBT, CPT, MA, works at CCH Wellness as a Technician, Phlebotomist and Health Coach in Gillette, Wyoming. Campbell County Health's Wellness works to reduce health risks and promote overall wellness among employee groups and individuals in Campbell County, Wyoming and beyond. To learn more about Wellness, please visit www.cchwyo.org/Wellness or call 307-688-8051.