For Immediate Release: September 5, 2019
Vermont Department of Health
Health Department Requesting Provider Reports of Vaping-associated Respiratory Illness
Vermont health professionals asked to assist in national CDC investigation
BURLINGTON, Vt – As part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s investigation into cases of severe respiratory illness associated with e-cigarettes and vaping, the Vermont Department of Health has asked the state’s health care providers to watch for and report any suspected cases.
According to the CDC, 215 possible cases of severe pulmonary disease associated with e-cigarette products have been reported in 25 states as of August 27. Two deaths, one each in Illinois and Oregon, have been reported. Vermont health officials are investigating one suspected case.
In a Health Advisory issued on August 29, 2019, Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD requested that providers report cases of significant respiratory illness among individuals with a history of vaping or smoking any substance in the 90 days prior to symptoms. The information collected will be shared with the CDC.
Although health officials have not yet determined a single substance or e-cigarette product associated with illness, a health advisory from the CDC said all the people affected reported e-cigarette use, with many reporting they vaped cannabinoid products such as THC or CBD. Patients have experienced respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain), nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, or other symptoms like fatigue, fever or weight loss. Symptoms typically develop over a period of days or weeks.
“This outbreak is disturbing, particularly because of how serious the symptoms are and how little we know about their cause,” said Dr. Levine. “We want to make sure we identify any Vermonters affected by this illness to better understand the situation.”
According to the 2017 Vermont Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) there was a significant increase in the percent of students who had ever tried e-cigarettes, from 30% to 34%. Fewer than one in 20 adults said they currently use e-cigarettes.
Among high school students in Vermont, 12%, or 3,000 students, said they used electronic vapor products in the past 30 days, and 15% used them every day.
A recent PACE survey of young Vermonters conducted by the Health Department and the University of Vermont found that among those who reported using marijuana in the past 30 days, 15% usually vaporized it.
“Youth, young adults, pregnant women and adults who do not use tobacco products should not use e-cigarette products,” said Dr. Levine. “If you currently use e-cigarette products, do not buy them off the street or modify them for unintended use.”
Public health concerns are already focused on the risks of exposure to potentially toxic chemicals from vaping products – including nicotine, arsenic, lead and formaldehyde. “We also know that e-cigarette products can be used to deliver substances for which they weren’t designed, like marijuana or other products that may come from unknown sources, which can make them more harmful,” said Dr. Levine.
Over the past several years, Vermont policy makers have focused on protecting youth and young adults from e-cigarette use.
Vermonters must now be 21 years or older to buy or possess tobacco or tobacco-substitute products, such as e-cigarettes. A Health Department initiative called Counterbalance, and the efforts of youth-led groups like OVX are reaching out to educate kids about flavors and how they are used to appeal to a new generation. The state also added e-cigarettes to Clean Indoor Air requirements, prohibited online e-cigarette and liquid nicotine sales, and began taxing them at the same rate as tobacco-related products.
Smokers who are trying to quit should use evidence-based approaches that have been shown to work. Visit 802Quits.org to get more information and free resources.
Vermont Health Advisory: healthvermont.gov/sites/default/files/documents/pdf/HAN-VapingIllness.pdf
CDC Health Advisory: https://emergency.cdc.gov/han/han00421.asp
Get Tobacco and Vaping information and Quit Resources: healthvermont.gov/wellness/tobacco
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