Ohio Will Spend $4 Million To Curb Vaping As Cases Of Serious Illness Grow

A woman smokes an e-cigarette. [Ina Lihach / Shutterstock]
A woman smokes an e-cigarette. [Ina Lihach / Shutterstock]
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Updated: 10:35 a.m., Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019.

Ohio Department of Health (ODH) officials are warning the public to avoid e-cigarettes and committing millions to help curb vaping as the number of confirmed cases of illness most likely caused by vaping continues to grow.

Ohio now has 10 cases of severe, vaping-related respiratory illness and 14 more cases are under investigation, up from three confirmed cases and 11 investigations last week.

The initial three cases ranged in age from 18 to 26, according to an ODH press release, and are from Lucas, Richland and Union counties.

ODH announced Sept. 10 it will spend $4 million to help curb the use of vaping and e-cigarettes. According to a press release, $3.3 million will go toward creating and promoting resources that community groups and organizations can use to teach youth and others about the risks of vaping.

Another $800,000 will pay for public education efforts, including information on Ohio’s new law prohibiting the sale of tobacco and vape products to those under 21. The new law takes effect Oct. 17.

The Washington Post reported Sept. 5 that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is honing in on vitamin E acetate as the possible culprit behind the respiratory issues.

Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals officials reported last month having treated patients with severe lung issues that doctors suspect were caused by the repeated use of e-cigarettes to vape nicotine and marijuana.

"While the investigation is ongoing, people should consider refraining from using e-cigarette or vaping products if they are concerned about the health risks," ODH said in the Sept. 4 press release.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is looking into more than 200 possible cases from 25 states.

CDC officials are suggesting people considering refraining from using e-cigarettes until the investigation is complete.

Other recommendations from the CDC include not buying vaping products off the streets and seeking medical attention promptly if those who choose to vape and experience respiratory problems or related health issues. The CDC reported last month that one person has died. 

The cases under CDC investigation are suspected to be caused by vaping — either nicotine, TCH or both — but more proof is needed, CDC officials said.

Dr. Humberto Choi, pulmonologist at Cleveland Clinic, said e-cigarette devices are growing in popularity and so are the possible physical issues they can cause. Over the past few weeks, he has treated three young adults with respiratory problems and no cause other than exposure to vaping.

Vaping can cause mild problems, such as a cough and shortness of breath, but some young people are developing serious respiratory illnesses, Dr. Choi said.

“Some of them even had a fever,” he said. “And some of them even had to be hospitalized and even required life support from a mechanical ventilator.”

All of the patients were vaping nicotine but some were also using marijuana at the same time, Dr. Choi said. The patients had been vaping for weeks or months, on a daily basis, he said.

University Hospitals doctors have also reported one illness in recent weeks involving a teenager, apparently related to vaping, officials said.

This story was originally published Sept. 5, 2019.

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