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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: September 10, 2019
Contact: Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936, (406) 461-3757
                jebelt@mt.gov
                Chuck Council, Communications Specialist, DPHHS, (406) 444-4391, (406) 461-8367
                hcouncil@mt.gov

 

Montanans Urged to Consider Not Using E-cigarettes During Nationwide Investigation into Severe Lung Illnesses

The Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) is urging Montanans to consider not using e-cigarettes, also known as vaping, while an ongoing nationwide investigation is conducted into serious pulmonary illnesses possibly linked to the use of these products.

The number of nationwide cases of severe lung illness related to vaping continues to grow.

As of September 6, 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 33 states have identified 450 potential cases of severe pulmonary illnesses possibly linked to e-cigarette use. Five deaths associated with severe pulmonary illness have occurred. Montana does not yet have a confirmed case.

However, DPHHS Director Sheila Hogan said at this time there are a few potential cases in Montana being investigated. “This is a serious health concern and it should be treated as such,” Hogan said. “I’m urging Montanans to take note about what is happening in other states and respond accordingly. While this investigation is ongoing, people should consider not using e-cigarette products. Montanans using any tobacco product, including e-cigarettes, should also consider quitting permanently.”

CDC states that all patients reported using e-cigarette products in the weeks and months prior to becoming ill. Products used by patients may contain nicotine, flavors, cannabinoid products such as THC or CBD, and other chemicals. To date, no single substance or e-cigarette product has been consistently associated with the illness.

Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, and fatigue. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are also common. Symptoms worsen over a period of days or weeks and do not appear to be caused by a pulmonary infection.

Regardless of the ongoing investigation, people who use e-cigarette products should not buy these products off the street and should not modify e-cigarette products or add any substances that are not intended by the manufacturer. E-cigarette products should never be used by youth, young adults, pregnant women, or adults who do not currently use tobacco products.

Hogan said adding to the concern is the high rate of e-cigarette use among youth. In Montana, e-cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product among high school students. The 2019 Montana Youth Risk Behavior Survey showed nearly a third (30%) of Montana high school students currently use e-cigarettes and more than half (58%) have tried them.

E-cigarette products are poorly regulated, and a CDC study found that 99% of e-cigarettes sold in convenience stores contain nicotine, which is highly addictive. “Tobacco products containing nicotine, no matter how it’s delivered, are unsafe for youth, young adults and pregnant women because it can harm brain development,” said DPHHS State Medical Officer Dr. Greg Holzman. “Parents should talk to their kids about the risks and dangers of vaping and everyone, especially young adults, should be aware that this illness is occurring.”

DPHHS is actively working with local health departments, who are coordinating with their local health care providers to investigate possible cases and to keep the public informed. Healthcare providers treating patients with respiratory illness with no apparent infectious cause and who have a history of e-cigarette use are asked to notify their local health department.

Current recommendations for the public include:

  • Until more information is known, CDC and DPHHS are advising people not to use any type of e-cigarette product.
  • Anyone who uses e-cigarette products and is experiencing respiratory issues should promptly consult their provider. If it is a medical emergency call 9-1-1 or the Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222).
  • Anyone who uses e-cigarette products should not buy them off the street and should not modify these products or add any substances that are not intended by the manufacturer.
  • Current tobacco users, including e-cigarette users, trying to quit should use evidence-based strategies, which include counseling, FDA-approved medications, and calling the Montana Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).
  • Youth (anyone under the age of 18) who need help quitting tobacco, including e-cigarettes, can text “Start my Quit” to 1-855-891-9989 or visit mylifemyquit.com.
  • Anyone experiencing unexpected health or product issues related to tobacco or e-cigarettes should submit this information via FDA’s online Safety Reporting Portal.

“Vaping products emit an aerosol that exposes users to a number of different substances of which the long-term health effects are unknown,” Holzman said. “If you do not use tobacco products, do not start using vape products. If you are trying to quit commercial tobacco products, we recommend talking with your doctor who can provide FDA approved cessation medications.”

More information about the investigation is available on the DPHHS website at dphhs.mt.gov.