State health officials Tuesday urged Montanans to consider not using e-cigarettes, or vaping products, while a nationwide investigation examines serious lung diseases possibly linked to the products.
“This is a serious health concern and it should be treated as such,” said Sheila Hogan, director of the Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services. “I’m urging Montanans to take note about what is happening in other states and respond accordingly.”
Hogan also said Montanans using any tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, should “consider quitting permanently.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) reported last week that 33 states have identified 450 potential cases of “severe pulmonary illnesses” possibly linked to e-cigarette use.
The state said Montana does not yet have a confirmed case, but Hogan said a few potential cases in Montana are being investigated.
The CDC says that all patients reported using e-cigarette products in the weeks and months prior to becoming ill. Products used by patients may contain nicotine, flavors, cannabinoid products such as THC or CBD, and other chemicals. To date, no single substance or e-cigarette product has been consistently associated with the illness.
Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, and fatigue. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are also common. Symptoms worsen over a period of days or weeks and do not appear to be caused by a pulmonary infection.
Regardless of the ongoing investigation, DPHHS stressed that 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.
Two weeks ago, the Vapor Technology Association, which represents vape shops, said reports on these lung diseases indicate they are caused by “illicit substances” such as THC and cannabis in the cigarettes, and not the e-cigarettes themselves.
A Montana vape-shop owner also told MTN News Tuesday that he believes vaping products from a “reputable vape shop” should be fine, and that the problems appear to have come from e-cigarettes or vaping products that have been altered by a third party or bought on the street.
“We’re licensed by the state and covered by the regulations of the Food and Drug Administration,” said Ron Marshall of Freedom Vapes, which has shops in Bozeman, Belgrade and Hamilton. “You’ve got (other) people out there basically making bath-tub gin.”
He agreed with state officials that people should not buy products from anywhere but a licensed shop, and that the products shouldn’t be used by minors.
State officials, however, said vaping products emit an aerosol that exposes the user to numerous substances, from which the long-term health effects are unknown.
E-cigarettes sometimes are marketed as safer alternatives to regular tobacco cigarettes.
Greg Holtzman, the state medical officer, said people who don’t use tobacco shouldn’t start using vape products and that if they are trying to quit tobacco, they should access cessation methods approved by the FDA.