Lewis County Health Officer Dr. Rachel Wood and her peers from Lewis County Public Health and Social Services updated county Commissioners Edna Fund and Gary Stamper Monday on the soaring trend of e-cigarettes, bringing them up to speed on a Washington State Board of Health order outlawing the sale of flavored vaping merchandise over the next 120 days, effective Oct. 10.
“Why play with fire?” Wood asked.
The emergency ruling, according to reports, comes in response to a nationwide outbreak of lung injuries associated with the use of vapor products.
The issue has also impacted Lewis County, as a recent statewide survey indicated that more local youths report vaping than the state average.
“It got marketed really at the onset as a way to quit smoking,” said Lewis County Public Health and Social Services Director J.P. Anderson, who compared using vaping devices in lieu of traditional cigarettes to drinking Diet Coke.
“With Diet Coke, there’s nothing wrong with it. But if you’re inhaling 12 Diet Cokes, it’s actually not good for you,” he said. “It’s like you solve one problem to give yourself another, and it seems like that’s what happened with this industry as well.”
Wood provided the latest statistics on vaping both on a state and nationwide level and its relationship with multiple forms of pulmonary illness found in patients who have reportedly engaged in some form of vape product usage.
She began by stating that as of last week, there have been 26 vaping-related deaths across 21 U.S. states. Among those who have died, it was noted, 70 percent were male, 80 percent were under the age of 35 and about 15 percent were under the age of 15.
Three of the seven deaths in Washington state, said Wood, were cases in which only nicotine was involved, while nicotine and THC overlaps were found in three other victims.
Furthermore, she revealed that 95 percent of patients across the country are presenting respiratory symptoms and 77 percent present gastrointestinal and/or respiratory symptoms. About 47 percent of those same patients are being hospitalized in ICUs (intensive care units) and approximately 20 percent required intubation or mechanical intubations to treat their vaping-related illness.
“The FDA is in the process of testing products that they are beginning to get from individuals who have had vaping-related pulmonary illness in the state of Washington,” informed Wood.
She later summarized conversations she’s had with the Washington State Board of Health requiring health care providers to report all vaping-related lung injuries within three days, which, Wood said, would give physicians ample time to rule out influenza and other infections.
Stamper didn’t mince words when vocalizing his feelings about the vaping epidemic and how it should be dealt with.
“I know you’ve been in contact with people that have created some of these problems in the first place. So, are they saying, ‘enough is enough?’” he asked. “We know it’s bad. It’s been proven in the past year, where we’ve seen all of these tragedies (with) young people, not only people who have done this for years and years. … I do applaud the fact that they are going back and they’re cutting all the flavored stuff. I’m hoping the (state) board is looking at this and has some vision on this rather than just putting a band-aid on it.”
Fund mentioned a recent legislative session that featured a proposal to levy increased taxes on the vaping industry.
Anderson thanked the commissioners for their support in the fight against vaping and stated his hope for “long-term solutions” in the near future.
Wood issued additional insight on the effects of vaping by adding.
“There were reports of formaldehyde as one of the possible things in there,” she said. “Why would you want to put that in your lungs? Formaldehyde is used to preserve dead tissue. The main thing is young adults, pregnant women should not be vaping.”
Wood recommended that smokers looking to quit look to medications approved by the Federal Food and Drug Administration.
“We still don’t know what it is that’s causing all of this,” she said, in reference to the recent deaths and illnesses.