Vaping is unregulated and unsafe — get the facts

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We are in the midst of a national investigation of vape-associated lung disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), state and local health departments (including those in Idaho), and other clinical and public health partners are investigating a multistate outbreak of lung injury associated with e-cigarette product use. We all have a lot of questions about vaping, and I hope we can answer some of those today, but the bottom line is that vaping is unregulated and it’s not safe.

I hear a lot of people being skeptical of the outbreak and the messaging around whether vaping is safe. Many say they have vaped for years and aren’t sick. Can you explain why that might be?

That is what this public health investigation is trying to learn. We do not yet know the specific cause of the lung disease. The investigation has not identified any specific e-cigarette or vaping product or substance that is linked to all the cases. This investigation is how public health officials are gathering as much information as possible about each of the cases so they can figure out what it is about these cases that is different and causing disease.

How does an investigation like this work?

Essentially, when a sick person visits a clinic with symptoms that align with the case definition for this outbreak, the medical professional will notify the state health department and will give officials data and information about the patient. That report triggers a response from an epidemiologist, who will contact the patient and interview them about the products they have used, how often they use them, their health status, and anything else that might be relevant to the investigation. As information is gathered, public health officials can see what is similar in all of these cases and eventually be able to determine a cause. Continue reading

Make a plan to quit tobacco Friday for The Great American Smokeout

The Great American Smokeout is one day each year when smokers are encouraged to make a plan to quit. Nov. 16 can be your day to begin that journey. It may be a difficult journey, but it’s worth it. Tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the United States. Quitting tobacco is the best decision you can make for your immediate health and for the rest of your life.

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How many Idahoans smoke or use tobacco products?

About 14.5 percent of adult Idahoans smoke. And just over 9 percent of high school students between 9th and 12th grades smoke, with many beginning to use cigarettes as early as age 13. Nicotine in tobacco is so addictive, it’s difficult to stop once you start.

Why is it important to quit smoking sooner rather than later?

The benefits of quitting start immediately after you stop. After 20 minutes of not smoking, your heart rate and blood pressure drop. 12 hours after quitting, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal. A year after quitting, the extra risk of a heart attack you’ve gained from smoking drops by half. And after 10-15 years of being cigarette-free, there is a substantial reduction in your risk for cancer or heart disease from smoking.

Are electronic cigarettes a good option to help a person quit?

E-cigarettes have no medically endorsed program to use them with, and some studies have shown that they don’t, in fact, help people quit smoking. Traditional nicotine replacement therapy is a much better choice because it helps a person kick the habit in a gradual, controlled way. Plus, it has been scientifically proven to be an effective intervention.

Are there benefits to a smoker’s family and friends when they quit?

Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 chemical compounds, including 50 known cancer-causing chemicals. Infants and children of parents who smoke are more likely to have ear infections and asthma, as well as more frequent lower respiratory problems such as coughs, pneumonia, bronchitis, and croup. Secondhand smoke also increases an infant’s risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Everyone who lives with a smoker has a 20-percent greater risk of developing lung cancer than people who don’t live with a smoker.

Where can a person go to get help?

Idahoans who want to quit can call 1-800-QuitNow to talk to a professional cessation coach or sign up online at ProjectFilter.org. When you sign up or call, a quit coach will help you decide which nicotine substitute, if any, is best for you. You can receive up to eight weeks of free nicotine patches, gum, or lozenges, mailed directly to your home, as part of your personalized quitting plan. You’ll also find lots of resources when you sign up, including eCoach forums and chats, and expert advice. The Idaho Careline, which you can reach by calling 2-1-1 anywhere in the state of Idaho, also has information about local programs to help you quit.

(A Closer Look At Your Health airs at around 6:50 a.m. most Tuesdays. This is an edited transcript from the Nov. 13 segment. Join us next week!)

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