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Health officials: Stop vaping
Kansas reports first death relating to vaping
stop vaping
As Kansas records its first vape-related death, health officials warn of the dangers of e-cigarettes. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

As sad as it was, Barton County Health Department Public Health Educator Katelyn Sigler hopes everyone, young and old, who “vape” learns about the recent lung disease death of a Kansas resident.

“I think it would open their eyes,” said Sigler, who coordinates the department’s Chronic Disease Risk Reduction Grant. “There is no safe way to smoke anything.”

Earlier this week, Kansas health officials confirmed the first death in the state associated with an outbreak of serious lung disease related to vaping or using e-cigarettes. The recent death was a Kansas resident over the age of 50. 

“It is important for everyone to see this,” Sigler said. “It is important they know how dangerous it is.”

This is especially important for young people who are often lured by the variety of flavors offered, she said. They assume the products are not harmful, but that is not the case.

But, adults need to be aware as well, she said. Sometimes marketed as a safe alternative to stop smoking, the vapors contain harmful chemicals as well.

According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, to date, Kansas has six reports associated with the outbreak of similar vape-related illnesses. Three patients have been classified as confirmed or probable cases and three cases are still under investigation. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with the addition of the Kansas report, is reporting six deaths and more than 450 possible cases of severe lung injury in 33 states and one jurisdiction. 

“It is time to stop vaping.” KDHE Secretary Norman said. “If you or a loved one is vaping, please stop.”

The recent deaths across our country, combined with hundreds of reported lung injury cases continue to intensify, Norman said. “I’m extremely alarmed for the health and safety of Kansans who are using vaping products and urge them to stop until we can determine the cause of vaping related lung injuries and death.”

“Our sympathies go out to the family of the person who died,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “Health officials are working hard to determine a cause and share information to prevent additional injuries.”

As that work continues, she urged Kansans to be careful. “Don’t put yourself in harm’s way, and please follow the recommendations of public health officials,” she said.

The ongoing investigation

State investigators determine if cases are confirmed or probable after examining the medical records of suspected cases and consulting with the clinical care team to exclude other possible cases. To protect patient confidentiality, no further information will be provided regarding each of these cases.

According to Kansas State Epidemiologist Dr. Farah Ahmed, the patient who died had a history of underlying health issues and was hospitalized with symptoms that progressed rapidly. 

The national investigation has not identified any one specific vaping or e-cigarette products linked to all cases. Many patients report using vaping or e-cigarette products with liquids that contain cannabinoid products, such as tetrahydrocannabinol. 

Kansas does not have detailed information on what types of products were used by the deceased.

Norman said health officials nationwide continue to gather information and determine what has caused these lung injuries.

While investigations into these cases continue, CDC is recommending people avoid vaping or using e-cigarettes. Also, people with a history of vaping who are experiencing lung injury symptoms should seek medical care. Nationally, symptoms among cases included shortness of breath, fever, cough, and vomiting and diarrhea. Other symptoms reported by some patients included headache, dizziness and chest pain.

Sigler said  individuals wanting more information on how to quit tobacco or vaping products can call 1-800-QUIT-NOW. 

Center of Disease Control and Quotewizard data found:

• Kansas is tied with New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Idaho at 24th-highest usage rates in the country. 

• States with the highest rate of vapers: Oklahoma (7.1 percent), Kentucky (6.1), Indiana (6.0), Tennessee (5.9), and Wyoming (5.8).

• States with the lowest rate of vapers: California (3.0 percent), Vermont (3.1), Connecticut (3.2), Massachusetts (3.3), and Maryland (3.3).

• 3.9 million middle school and high school aged teens nationwide currently vape.

• Vapers could face 50% increase in health insurance rates if e-cigarette users are classified as tobacco users.