Five reported deaths from vaping related lung illness prompt OSDH health advisory

Posted on: 9/13/19


The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) is asking Oklahoma health care providers to report unexplained cases of lung disease to the OSDH Injury Prevention Service by calling (405) 271-3430 or by email, injury@health.ok.gov. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that five people have died from pulmonary illness related to the use of vapes or electronic cigarettes. The deaths occurred in California, Oregon, Minnesota, Illinois, and Indiana.

These products heat a liquid that typically contains nicotine, flavorings, heavy metals, and other cancer-causing compounds. Additionally, vapes or electronic cigarettes can be used with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the leading intoxicant in marijuana. The CDC believes the recent outbreak of vape related illness has grown to 450 cases and is driven by exposure to chemicals contained in vapes or electronic cigarettes. Common symptoms of those examined include shortness of breath, chest pain, vomiting, fever and fatigue. The cases have been highly concentrated in young males 18 to 35. The surgeon general has called the dramatic rise in youth use of vapes or electronic cigarettes an epidemic.

In response to a CDC investigation, the OSDH has released a call to action for Oklahoma health care providers that includes asking all patients about their use of vapes or electronic cigarettes and obtaining a detailed history of the substances patients have been exposed to when a diagnosis of severe pulmonary illness is present or possible. The full list of recommendations can be found by contacting the OK-HAN coordinator at (405) 271-4060 or okhan@health.ok.gov.  

Vapes or electronic cigarettes are not an FDA-approved quit smoking aid, and the current research is inconclusive on their effectiveness for tobacco cessation. The current clinical practice guidelines for tobacco treatment include:
     1. Screening all patients for tobacco use,
     2. Providing patients who use a tobacco product with a brief cessation intervention,
     3. The use of an FDA-approved cessation medication, and
     3. Follow-up support from an evidence-based program such as the Helpline.
OHA’s Hospitals Helping Patients Quit (HHPQ) program provides free hands-on support to hospitals and clinics interested in developing an evidence-based tobacco treatment program. HHPQ is funded through a grant from the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET). HHPQ has partnered with more than 50 hospitals and over 200 clinics to develop tobacco treatment programs that have improved the health and quality of life for thousands of Oklahomans. If your hospital or clinic would like more education about vapes and electronic cigarettes or help in setting up a comprehensive tobacco cessation program, please contact Kelly Willingham, kwillingham@okoha.com, (405) 427-9527. 

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