Officials Issue Public Health Warning to Stop Vaping

September 30, 2019

 Officials in Louisville today issued a public health warning that anyone using e-electronic cigarettes and other vaping products should stop in the face of a national outbreak of severe lung injury due to e-cigarette and vaping product use. (Watch the press conference.)

Currently in the U.S., there are 805 cases of this illness from 46 states and 1 territory. There have been twelve deaths. Kentucky has 20 cases under investigation, with three probable cases and one confirmed. One of the cases under investigation is from Louisville.

“We are deeply concerned about two public health trends we’re seeing right now,” said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. “One is the precipitous rise in teen vaping and the other is the outbreak we’re seeing of people who use vaping products developing serious lung problems.”

According to a 2018 Kentucky Initiatives for Prevention Survey, nearly 1 in 4 (23.2%) Kentucky teens use-e-cigarettes every day. The survey found that e-cigarette use among teens nearly doubled over the last three years.

“Our message is simple,” said Dr. Sarah Moyer, director of the Department of Public Health and Wellness and the city’s chief health strategist, “Vaping is not safe. This outbreak of e-cigarette-related injury and death is disproportionately hitting young people and it’s something we’ve never seen before.”

“The outbreak does not just involve products with THC bought on the black market,” said Dr. Moyer. “Investigators have not been able to narrow down the cause of this very serious lung injury to any single or group of vaping products. Right now, we can't say that ANY vaping products are safe to use and don't cause this lung condition,” she said.

Dr. Moyer urged parents, teachers and mentors to talk to children about the potentially deadly consequences of vaping. She also advised former smokers who use e-cigarettes to quit smoking to not return to conventional cigarettes, but instead to sign up for free Stop Smoking classes offered by the Department of Public Health and Wellness. “These classes use medically approved nicotine replacement products,” she said. “Call us at 574-STOP.”

Ben Chandler, President and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky said, ”While tragic, this outbreak shouldn’t surprise us. E-cigarettes are largely unregulated. No government entity oversees what goes into them. No authority tests them for safety. Many are mislabeled and they’re easily adulterated. Right now, it appears that the harms of e-cigarettes outweigh the benefits.”

Chandler said the Foundation is advocating for an excise tax on e-cigarettes that is parallel to the current tax on cigarettes. “Excise taxes are a proven measure to reduce tobacco use, particularly among youth and pregnant women, and they’ve been a big piece of the puzzle in reducing youth smoking rates nationwide and in Kentucky,” Chandler said. “Yet e-cigarettes are the only tobacco product sold in Kentucky that are not subject to such a tax.”

Jefferson County Public Schools recently launched an anti-vaping campaign to warn students about the dangers of e-cigarette use. “This new information should be eye-opening to our students, their parents and our teachers” said Dr. Marty Pollio, Superintendent, Jefferson County Public Schools. “We launched our Vaping Equals campaign to educate middle and high school students in health classes and to bring awareness to our parents.  This message is even more important now.”

Vaping and smoking in indoor public place and worksites in Louisville have been illegal since 2017. Anyone witnessing a violation can report it to MetroCall by phoning 311.

 

CLICK HERE for the Centers for Disease Control's most up to date information on vaping related lung illnesses due to electronic cigarette use.

CLICK HERE to read the U.S.Surgeon General's Report on youth vaping.

CLICK HERE to learn more about JCPS' antivaping campaign.