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First Ind. vaping death confirmed

STAFF REPORT - hpnews@h-ponline.com

The Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) confirmed the first death of an Indiana resident due to severe lung injury linked to a history of “vaping.”

The death, which occurred in an individual older than age 18, was confirmed Sept. 5 as part of an investigation involving health officials at local and federal levels and in surrounding states.

Privacy laws have restricted the release of any further information about the victim.

Indiana is investigating 30 cases of severe lung injury linked to vaping. Eight of those have been confirmed.

The majority of the Indiana lung injury cases have occurred among individuals ages 16 to 29. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says more than 215 cases have been reported nationally, with more cases under investigation.

“The tragic loss of a Hoosier and rising number of vaping-related injuries are warnings that we cannot ignore,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box in a statement. “We know that these products typically contain nicotine, which is highly addictive, and many cases report inhaling THC and other substances not available in commercial products.

“While it is unclear what substances are causing injury, when you use these products with other chemicals, you may not know everything that you’re inhaling and the harm it can cause,” she continued.

Dr. Box said many patients across the U.S. developed severe symptoms that required emergency intervention. Box urged all vape users who have experienced respiratory symptoms within the last 90 days to stop using these products and see a healthcare professional immediately.

Respiratory symptoms can include: Shortness of breath, cough, chest pain, fatigue, fever, weight loss, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.

ISDH is working with affected individuals and their families to obtain products used by the patients and send them to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for testing. At this time, no common substance has been identified in the Indiana cases.

The use of e-cigarettes, or vaping, among young people is a rising public health crisis across the U.S.

A 2018 Indiana Youth Tobacco Survey (IYTS) found that vaping has increased 387 percent among high school students and 358 percent among middle school students since 2012.

Between 2016 and 2018, nearly 35,000 more Indiana students began using e-cigarettes, according to the survey.

Last week in a response to the rise in vape usage among students, Dr. Box and Gov. Eric J. Holcomb announced a $2 million plan to combat youth vaping. The plan focuses on training and education for schools, parents and students, a youth-focused text-to-quit program and a statewide vaping awareness campaign.

“Under Dr. Box’s leadership, we will take an all-hands-on-deck approach to curb youth vaping by educating the public on health risks so that fewer youth start using e-cigarettes, while also providing resources to those who want to quit,” Holcomb said in a press release last week.

According to Dr. Box, one e-cigarette can contain the same amount of nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes.

“As the number of hospitalizations rises, it’s clear that we need to help youth and parents better understand the health risks of these products before they become the next generation of smokers,” said Box.

Parents and educators who want to learn more about the dangers of vaping can visit vapefreeindiana.isdh.in.gov. Nationwide vaping injuries can be found on the CDC’s website.