GREAT FALLS — The Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services says it has confirmed the state’s first death associated with the national outbreak of e-cigarette use, or vaping.
DPHHS officials said in a press release on Wednesday that the case involves a person in their late teens with a history of vaping. State and local health officials have been investigating and officially identified this as a case on October 15. The agency says that no further information about the person is being released at this time due to confidentiality.
DPHHS continues to work with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, and local public health as this ongoing national investigation continues.
In Montana, there have been three identified cases of vaping-associated pulmonary illness, including this one death.
Here is the latest information from the CDC website:
- Most patients report a history of using tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-containing products. The latest national and state findings suggest products containing THC, particularly those obtained off the street or from other informal sources (e.g. friends, family members, illicit dealers), are linked to most of the cases and play a major role in the outbreak.
The CDC also says that among 573 patients with information on substances used in e-cigarette or vaping products in the three months prior to symptom onset, about 76% reported using THC-containing products; 32% reported exclusive use of THC-containing products; about 58% reported using nicotine-containing products; and 13% reported exclusive use of nicotine-containing products.
Last week Governor Steve Bullock directed DPHHS to enact emergency rules to temporarily ban flavored e-cigarette products. The emergency rules take effect on October 22 and last for 120 days, the maximum time allowed by law. The ban includes the sale of all flavored e-cigarette products, including flavored nicotine, THC, and CBD vaping products, in-store and online. The ban does not require retailers to destroy their existing inventory.
The American Vaping Association said in a press release that Bullock's decision is "rash and unfounded," and that Bullock and DPHHS should expect a legal challenge in court.
DPHHS State Medical Officer Dr. Greg Holzman said much is still unknown about what is causing these vaping-associated illnesses and deaths. DPHHS continues to reiterate the same message. “During this time, we highly recommend that people refrain from any vaping products,” Holzman said.
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The CDC and FDA have not identified the cause or causes of the lung injuries in these cases, and the only commonality among all cases is that patients report the use of e-cigarette, or vaping, products. This outbreak might have more than one cause, and many different substances and product sources are still under investigation. The specific chemical exposure(s) causing lung injuries associated with e-cigarette product use, or vaping, remains unknown at this time.
DPHHS State Epidemiologist Laura Williamson thanks all those who are cooperating with the investigations that are occurring around the state. Specifically, she said it’s crucial that those who have been identified as having symptoms to save any leftover product so it can be tested. “The assistance of the public is so important as we work to understand what is happening in order to prevent future illnesses,” Williamson said.
As part of this information-collecting effort, DPHHS will add vaping associated pulmonary illness to the list of reportable diseases and conditions to aid in the epidemiological investigation of the outbreak.