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Vaping health concerns arrive in Big Sky Country

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By Doug Hare EBS STAFF

BIG SKY —  On Sept. 20, Montana state health officials confirmed the state’s first case of severe lung disease associated with vaping. A Yellowstone County man in his 30s with a history of using THC and nicotine vaping products was hospitalized in August with a mysterious pulmonary disease, and is now recovering at home. State health officials are looking into a number of additional pulmonary disease cases around Montana that might show similar connection to a history of vaping.

Nationally, 18 deaths from severe lung disease associated with vaping have been confirmed. The first death reported due to a vaping-related illness occurred on Aug. 23 in Illinois. At that time, federal and state officials were investigating almost 200 cases of the baffling sickness in 22 states, according to the Center for Disease Control. Symptoms could include coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain and fatigue and can worsen over a short period of time.

The Montana state health department has asked residents to consider not using e-cigarettes while the implications are investigated. Vaping has been linked to severe lung disease in more than 530 cases reported in 38 states, predominantly consisting of males between the ages of 18 and 34 who ingested either nicotine or THC, a psychoactive chemical in cannabis, using some form of e-cigarette.

“I urge Montanans to refrain from using e-cigarettes, considering the existing unknown health consequences,” State Medical Officer Dr. Greg Holzman said in a press release. “If you’re having difficulties quitting these highly addictive nicotine products, contact your health care provider or the Montana Tobacco Quit Line.”

According to data from the CDC, Montana was found to have a 3.9 percent prevalence of e-cigarette smoking, the eleventh-lowest usage rate in the country. In response to the recent spate of vaping-related illnesses and deaths,  officials from the federal Food and Drug Administration announced earlier in September that the FDA will develop guidelines to remove all e-cigarette flavors except tobacco from the national market.

Vaping has exploded in popularity in recent years, especially amongst youth. According to the Montana Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 58% of students have tried a vaping product, up from about 46% in 2017. More than 8% of students used a vaping product daily, up from about 2% in 2017.

Prevalence of e-cigarette smoking percentage by state

No. 1 – Oklahoma 7.1

No. 2 – Kentucky 6.1

No. 3 – Indiana 6.0

No. 39 – Montana 3.0

No. 48 – Connecticut 3.2

No. 49 – Massachusetts 3.3

No. 50 – Maryland 3.3

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