DHSS News Promoting the health and well-being of Alaskans. June 2019

Lung Illness Associated with E-Cigarette Use, or Vaping

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) update: As of Oct. 1, 2019, 1,080 cases of lung illness associated with the use of e-cigarette or vaping products have been reported to CDC from 48 states and one U.S. territory. Eighteen deaths have been confirmed in 15 states. No cases have been reported in Alaska. CDC recommends people consider refraining from using e-cigarette, or vaping, products, particularly those containing THC, while the investigation is ongoing.
  • The role of THC in the outbreak: Recent findings released by CDC suggest products containing THC play a significant role in the outbreak. According to a recent MMWR, most outbreak patients (77%) reported using THC-containing products, or both THC-containing products and nicotine-containing products; 36% reported exclusive use of THC-containing products. About 57% reported using nicotine-containing products; 16% reported exclusive use of nicotine-containing products. Also, THC-containing products obtained outside of a regulated marketplace, from informal sources such as friends, family members, illicit dealers, or “off the street,” appear to pose higher risk, based on data from Illinois and Wisconsin published in a second MMWR.
  • How to report: Health care providers should report cases of respiratory illness of unclear etiology among persons with a history of e-cigarette product use within the past 90 days to the Alaska Section of Epidemiology at (907) 269-8000 or 800-478-0084 (after hours). Patients who experience symptoms like those reported in this outbreak should seek medical care promptly. Patients can also call Alaska’s poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.
  • Smoking cessation: The CDC recommends that adults who are using e-cigarettes to quit cigarette smoking not return to smoking cigarettes. If someone is trying to quit cigarettes or e-cigarettes, the CDC recommends that patients contact their health care provider and use evidence-based treatments, including counseling and FDA-approved medications. Alaska’s Tobacco Quit Line has staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week specifically trained to help tobacco users quit with no cost to the individual. Health care providers may also be interested in this from the FY19 Quit Line Annual Report: 51% of the new callers to Alaska’s Tobacco Quit Line self-report substance abuse, mental illness or both when seeking cessation services.
  • Education and Outreach: DHSS, ANTHC, the American Lung Association in Alaska and many other health education partners have ongoing public health campaigns to help inform Alaskans about the risks of e-cigarettes. This includes social media designed specifically for youth like the Not Buying It campaign. The State of Alaska’s Tobacco Prevention and Control Program supports several Communities of Practice (CoP)s made up of community stakeholders. These CoPs hold monthly teleconferences to provide ongoing technical assistance and trainings. There are three CoPs that focus on youth – emerging trends (new products), peer engagement, and policies that impact youth access.

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