Vaping Epidemic Turns Deadly, IDPH Offers Support, Local Vape Shops Fight Back

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DES MOINES, Iowa  —  The Trump Administration is readying a ban on flavored e-cigarettes in response to widespread lung illnesses.

The CDC said this illness has sickened 450 people and killed at least six.

Eight cases have been reported here in Iowa for what the Iowa Department of Public Health is calling a severe acute lung injury in persons who have recently reported vaping or the use of e-cigarette products.

“The clinical presentation, initially sometimes sort of vague with fever or not feeling well, sometimes involving gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, typically presenting to cough and trouble breathing,” the State Medical Director and Epidemiologist Dr. Caitlin Pedati said these were some of the symptoms people are experiencing.

These Iowans with severe acute lung injury range in age from young adult to middle-aged and the cases are scattered all over the state.

Dr. Pedati said Iowa first started tracking these patterns of lung illness about a month ago but also said the act of vaping is still so new they don’t know the long-term consequences.

Dr. Pedati said seven of the eight people reported using illicit THC products.

Seth Peters, the owner of a vape shop in Carroll called Vaped Ape, said the black-market sale and use of THC cannabis oils are putting a bad name on the vaping industry.

“If vaping itself was our culprit, these issues wouldn’t have just popped up now. You have to look at the new variable, what’s changed? And it’s the flooding of these black-market THC cannabis oils,” Peters said.

The FDA is currently finalizing its guidance to remove all non-tobacco flavors of e-cigarettes, including mint and menthol, from the market within 30 days.

But people may still be struggling with addiction. The IDPH recently launched a new program called My Life My Quit aimed at giving real-time support and guidance to youth struggling with addiction to tobacco or vaping products. Helping them quit and find other ways of managing stressors and social situations that might lead them to use some of those products.

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