As state and federal authorities work to understand and address the recent public health crisis regarding e-cigarettes, Gov. Laura Kelly said Kansas is committed to combating this health issue.
“Today, I am saddened to announce the death of a second Kansan in association with this outbreak,” Gov. Kelly said Monday. “Dr. Lee Norman and his team with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment are working tirelessly with other states and organizations to gather facts on e-cigarettes and its effects. We are coordinating a response to combat this epidemic, so that families can avoid such tragic outcomes.”
As of Sept. 23, Kansas has had two confirmed deaths related to vaping, according to health authorities. The first Kansas death related to vaping or using e-cigarettes was a female resident over the age of 50 with underlying health conditions. The second death is a male over the age of 50 who also had underlying health conditions.
Kansas currently has nine probable or confirmed vaping related cases, including the two deaths, according to the KDHE.
Of the cases, five are male and four are female and range in age from 17 to 67 years old. All were hospitalized, five have been released from the hospital and two remain hospitalized.
Regarding the types of vaping products used, there was a combination or those reporting using only nicotine, only THC, only CBD and a combination of THC and nicotine. Due to the small numbers of those affected, KDHE is not releasing locations of those affected or information about specific cases.
According to the CDC, the number of vaping-related illnesses nationally has climbed to 530, with several deaths nationwide as federal and state health officials continue to search for the cause of the outbreak.
These new numbers indicate a dramatic 40 percent increase from last week, when the agency reported 380 cases in 36 states and the Virgin Islands. Half of the patients are under 25 years old. In response to the rapid pace of the outbreak, the CDC has opened its Emergency Operations Center.
The state of Kansas is working swiftly to address this epidemic and is actively reviewing policy options, according to Gov. Kelly.
Dr. Norman has been chosen to testify before Congress concerning the effects of e-cigarettes, and will offer his testimony in front of the United States House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee on Wednesday, Sept. 25.
“E-cigarettes are unregulated, which means that we don’t know what’s in them,” Dr. Norman, KDHE secretary, said. “And, of great concern to me, is that in the midst of all these illnesses being reported, the amount of young people using them is significant.”
E-cigarettes are the most commonly-used tobacco product among youth. Some 96 percent of youth who initiated e-cigarette use between 2016 and 2017 did so with a flavored e-cigarette product. According to preliminary findings from the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS), over one quarter of U.S. high school students report using an e-cigarette product in the past 30 days, an increase from 2018 when the rate of past 30-day use was 20.8 percent.
“Most teens who vape have never smoked cigarettes,” Norman said. “Vaping is how they are initiating inhaling things into their lungs. We must work diligently and swiftly in addressing this public health crisis.”
In line with concerns on marketing, the Food and Drug Administration on Friday, Sept. 20, issued a proposed rule that would allow e-cigarette products to be sold only after they’ve shown they may be marketed in a way that best protects public health. A federal judge ordered the FDA this summer to require all e-cigarettes to submit to federal review by May 2020.
“Until these rules and regulations go into effect, education is our best defense,” Dr. Norman said. “Talk to your kids. Talk to your grandkids. Keep talking about these issues.”
To increase education regarding e-cigarettes and what the tobacco industry has termed as “vaping,” KDHE and the Kansas Department of Education partnered to develop a Vape-Free Schools kit. Schools are urged to adopt the kit and parents and caretakers are encouraged to have conversations with their children. Tips are available from the Surgeon General at https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/documents/SGR_ECig_ParentTipSheet_508.pdf.
Gov. Kelly also urges Kansans to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advice regarding vaping: While this investigation is ongoing, people should consider not using e-cigarette products. People who do use e-cigarette products should monitor themselves for symptoms (for example, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever) and promptly seek medical attention for any health concerns. Regardless of the ongoing investigation, people who use e-cigarette products should not buy these products off the street and should not modify e-cigarette products or add any substances that are not intended by the manufacturer. E-cigarette products should never be used by youth, young adults, pregnant women or adults who do not currently use tobacco products.