FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- For the first time, a Kentuckian appears to have died from an illness related to vaping.
For privacy reasons, public health officials will not release the man’s name or where he lived, but they blame his death on the use of e-cigarettes.
“It's someone who was using the vaping product, who was in their late 20s and a male, “said Elizabeth Anderson-Hoagland, health promotion section supervisor with the state's Department for Public Health.
The department will only say the man's death was "probably" caused by vaping. Officials cannot rule out other factors such as asthma or other type of illness.
“We still think that vaping is the primary cause of that person getting sick,” Anderson-Hoagland said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 50 people in 27 states and the District of Columbia have died from vaping-related illnesses. More than 2,000 others have been hospitalized with lung injuries.
Anderson-Hoagland said, generally, many vaping illnesses seem to be connected to the presence of Vitamin E, which is sometimes added to the product by shady manufacturers.
“We think that there are people taking shortcuts," she said. "And so they are putting Vitamin E acetate into that liquid to make it look thicker, make it look higher quality. Unfortunately, Vitamin E acetate is good for your skin, but it's really bad for your lungs when you inhale it.”
Health experts said part of the problem is the vaping industry is largely unregulated.
Rep. Kim, Moser, chair of the House Health and Family Services Committee, said this first death brings new urgency to efforts to keep vaping products out of the hands of young people.
Several bills to regulate vaping have already been filed this session.
“We've seen such an explosion in young kids, in middle-schoolers and high schoolers," Moser said. "We really need to get a handle on this."
In the meantime, the public health department is offering several online and phone-based services to help people quit.
Quit Now Kentucky offers confidential, one-on-one coaching for Kentuckians of all ages who want to quit tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes, dip and chew. My Life, My Quit is a free, confidential quit line for teenagers 17 and younger who want to quit using tobacco products. This service is similar to Quit Now Kentucky but was designed specifically for young people and uses coaches who are trained to work with adolescents.
This is Quitting is a free texting service for young adults and teens who want to quit using e-cigarettes. This service is for people ages 13 to 24 and only provides coaching by text message.
Anderson-Hoagland said the coaches are “that motivation and that support to help you solve your problem.”
Information about all the vaping and tobacco cessation programs is available here.
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