Kentucky Department for Public Health announces first vaping-related death

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The national outbreak of vaping-related deaths has now hit Kentucky. State health officials have reported the first person to die in the state with vaping as the probable cause, bringing the total to at least 58 deaths across the country. 

Dr. Angela Dearinger, DPH Commissioner, said the fatality was a male in his late 20s. Other information is confidential to protect privacy. 

DPH reports the fatality of a Kentuckian in its weekly online update of investigations related to e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury (EVALI).

As of today, there have been 48 reports of possible EVALI. There are seven confirmed EVALI cases and 15 pending cases. Two additional cases investigated in Kentucky were residents of other states who were treated in Kentucky hospitals.

The probable case means that someone has a lung injury believed to be caused by vaping, but they also may have other health issues, like the flu or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). 

For confirmed cases, there is no other possible cause than vaping for the lung disease. A case is pending if the department is awaiting further information to make a determination.

Troy Leblanc, the President of Derby Cigs and the President of Kentucky Smoke Free Association says since the reports of deaths around the country started months ago, his business here in the bluegrass has lost over $1,000,000.

“We have 70 plus employees. We fear that we’re going to have to start laying more people off . We’re going to loose sales and more importantly, the people that have chosen vapor as an alternative to combustable tobacco are going to go back to smoking, we know that kills 480,000 people a year,” Leblanc said.

He says the fact that the state has not made a distinction of what was in this vape, is concerning and could lead to misinformation.

“So my big fear is Kentucky state saying to everyone stop vaping completely,” he explained. “The CDC and the FDA came back out and they said that our products were not the ones that were actually hurting people it was actually THC or illegal black market THC.”

DPH has been investigating reports of EVALI since Sept. 2019.

“We are saddened to announce the death associated with this outbreak,” he said. “To protect public health, we urge Kentuckians – especially young people — to stop using all vaping products,” CHFS Acting Secretary Eric Friedlander  said.

Dearinger said health experts can’t guarantee the safety of any e-cigarette or vaping product. In addition to nicotine, which is an addictive substance, e-cigarette aerosol contains cancer- causing chemicals and ultra- fine particles that cause respiratory problems. The long- term health effects caused by electronic cigarettes or vaping are currently unknown. “Electronic cigarette use is never safe for youth or young adults,” Dearinger said.

A recently enacted federal law raised the minimum tobacco-buying age from 18 to 21.

RESOURCES

Quit Now Kentucky offers confidential, one-on-one coaching for Kentuckians of all ages who want to quit tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes, dip and chew. Coaching is available by phone or online chat, and in English or Spanish. Quit Now Kentucky is available from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. Eastern time (6 a.m. to midnight Central time), seven days a week. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669); Text QUITKY to 797979; or go to http://www.quitnowkentucky.org

My Life, My Quit is a free, confidential quit line for teens 17 and younger who want to quit using tobacco products. This service is similar to Quit Now Kentucky, but was designed specifically for young people and uses coaches who are trained to work with adolescents. Coaching is available by text message, phone or online chat. For more information on how My Life, My Quit, call 1-855-891-9989, text START MY QUIT to 1-855-891-9989; or go to https://www.mylifemyquit.com.

This is Quitting is a free texting service for young adults and teens who want to quit using e-cigarettes. This service is for people ages 13 to 24 and only provides coaching by text message. People who enroll in This is Quitting receive one text per day leading up to the day they quit vaping, and for at least two months after they quit. This is Quitting is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To sign-up, text KENTUCKY to 88709.

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