Montana reports first vaping-related death

The state of Montana reported its first death connected to e-cigarette use on Tuesday, and it’s a teenager.

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The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services said the death was caused by the lung disease associated with a national outbreak of vaping-related illnesses, part of a nationwide epidemic.

State health officials declined to release any further details about the youth, citing confidentiality, and that they have identified two other people in the state with vaping-associated lung illnesses.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that, as of October 8, 2019, there have been 26 deaths due to lung injury cases confirmed in 21 states. 1,299 lung injury cases associated with the use of e-cigarette, or vaping, products have been reported to the CDC from 49 states, the District of Columbia, and 1 U.S. territory. The CDC updates this information every Thursday.

All patients have reported a history of using e-cigarette, or vaping, products. Most patients report a history of using tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-containing products.

According to the latest CDC study on e-cigarette use among high school students, which was released in November 2018, there was an increase in use from 1.5 percent (220,000 students) in 2011 to 20.8 percent (3.05 million students) in 2018. During the 2017–2018 school year, current e-cigarette use increased by 78 percent - from 11.7 percent to 20.8 percent of students, and that use of any flavored e-cigarettes increased among e-cigarette users, from 60.9 percent to 67.8 percent.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT) announced on Oct. 8 that he would enact a temporary ban on flavored vaping products, which are marketed to and used by teenagers.

The 120-day ban takes effect on Oct. 22, which is the maximum time allowed by law. The ban includes the sale of all flavored e-cigarette products, including flavored nicotine, THC, and CBD vaping products, in-store and online. The ban does not require retailers to destroy existing inventory.

"My heartfelt sympathies go out to the family who has lost a loved one way too soon," Gov. Bullock said of the teen's death on Wednesday. "This tragedy truly hits home. I urge Montanans to take the recommendations being issued by public health officials very seriously until more is known about this health crisis."

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As with bans of flavored e-cigarettes in states such as New York, Massachusetts, and Michigan (which have all faced legal challenges with mixed results), its aim is to reduce e-cigarette use while authorities investigate what product or chemical is causing critical illness across the country and develop an evidence-based response.

The CDC still cannot isolate the cause for the vaping-related illnesses, and that “many different substances and product sources are still under investigation. The specific chemical exposure(s) causing lung injuries associated with e-cigarette product use, or vaping, remains unknown at this time.”

Among the 1,043 patients that the CDC has data on age and sex, the agency reports that the median age of patients is 24 years and ages range from 13 to 75 years, and that 15 percent of patients are under 18 years old, and 21 percent of patients are 18 to 20 years old.

"I urge Montanans to take the recommendations being issued by public health officials very seriously until more is known about this health crisis"

- Montana Gov. Steve Bullock

First Lady Melania Trump hosted high school students at the White House on Oct. 9, after speaking about the dangers of teen vaping at an event at Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Headquarters a couple days before.

“We need to continue encouraging teenagers and young adults that have fallen into drug addiction to be brave enough to admit it, to talk about it, and to get help,” said Trump at an event honoring the DEA’s Red Ribbon Week. “This also includes addiction associated with e-cigarettes and vaping. It is important to me that we all work to educate children and families about the dangers associated with this habit. Marketing this addictive product to children must stop.”

This past July, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is announced the launch of its first e-cigarette prevention television ads educating kids about the dangers of e-cigarette use. The FDA also plans to provide new posters for high schools and educational materials for middle schools across the U.S. as part of “The Real Cost” Youth E-Cigarette Prevention Campaign.

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This public education effort was first launched in September 2018 with hard-hitting advertising on digital and social media sites, as well as posters with e-cigarette prevention messages displayed in high schools across the nation, targeting the nearly 10.7 million youth, aged 12-17, who have used e-cigarettes or have expressed interest in trying them.