Hawaii investigates vaping illness

LIHUE — The Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) is investigating the state’s first report of a possible case of vaping-associated severe respiratory illness in a resident under the age of 18 on Hawaii Island.

The serious lung injury was reported earlier this week and health officials are aggressively gathering patient information to determine the cause of the illness. The individual is currently hospitalized and still receiving treatment for their symptoms.

It’s a growing trend — according to the CDC more than 450 potential or confirmed cases of severe lung injury associated with vaping have been reported, including at least six deaths, in 33 states and one U.S. Territory.

In Hawaii, data from the 2017 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey and Youth Risk Behavior Survey show that 25.5 percent of high school students currently smoke e-cigarettes, which is twice the national average. Hawaii is second in the nation for e-cigarette use amongst high school students, just behind Colorado.

DOH continues to urge physicians to be on alert for signs of severe respiratory illness among patients who recently used vaping products, including e-cigarettes and THC products, and report any cases.

Today, DOH sent a medical advisory with guidance to all physicians statewide. To date, there have been no confirmed cases in Hawaii of lung injuries associated with vaping.

“We are cautioning people about using e-cigarettes and advise against using unregulated THC-containing vaping products,” said Health Director Bruce Anderson. “We are monitoring the situation locally and nationally, and coordinating with federal and state partners to stay up-to-date on the latest information available.”

According to an update from CDC, evidence suggests the lung illnesses are likely linked to a chemical exposure, but the investigation has not identified any single product or substance common to all cases of acute severe pulmonary disease associated with vaping.

In Hawaii, campaigns like 808NoVape work to inspire students to stop vaping, or never to start, but according to the Hawaii Youth Survey which calculated vaping usage in 2017, kids are still using vape products.

According to their data, 27.6% of Kauai middle school students said they tried electronic vapor products. Compare that to 32.1% of Hawaii Island middle school students, 24.5% of Honolulu County students, and 30.9% of Maui County middle school students.

At the high school level, Hawaii Youth Survey reports 45.2% of Kauai high school students have tried electronic vapor products. Maui County high school students come in at 51.1%, Honolulu County reports 41% and Hawaii County reports 49.2% of high school students trying vape products.

About half of the students are sticking with the smoke, too, according to the data. HYS reports 24% of Kauai high school students are currently using vape products — the study reported students who used electronic vapor products at least one day during the 30 days before the survey.

Valerie Saiki, Hawaii Public Health Institute Kauai Community Coordinator, points out vaping has been trending in several ways — people vape by itself or use vaping in an attempt to quit cigarettes.

Students, many times, haven’t been smoking cigarettes, they just vape — and some of them are potentially getting sick from it.

“Vaping doesn’t have much (in terms of) review or studies and now there’s a group of people who are trying (exclusively) vaping,” Saiki said. “They’re the guinea pigs.”

Symptoms of acute severe pulmonary disease associated with vaping or use of an e-cigarette device may include: cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, weight loss, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea and fever. Anyone who uses e-cigarette products should monitor themselves for symptoms and promptly seek medical attention for any health concerns.

DOH advises people to avoid e-cigarette products off the street and not modify e-cigarette products or add any substances that are not intended by the manufacturer.

People should avoid vaping illicit THC products, too, as the available evidence from other states shows many of the injury cases had exposure to such products, according to DOH. E-cigarette products should never be used by youth, young adults, pregnant women, or adults who do not currently use tobacco products.

  1. Charlie Chimknee September 11, 2019 7:36 am Reply

    Aloha Kakou,

    Some of the flavors that are put into E-cigarettes are artificially made by re-arranging the chemicals in petroleum and/or coal tars, that is, the source ingredients in some of the flavors for E-cigarettes comes from oil wells, and coal mines, this makes them carcinogenic, that means cancer causing.

    You’d have to be pretty stupid knowing that and still smoke those dangerous chemicals…you don’t look cool smoking E-cigs…you look stupid. In reality is is a form of slow suicide.

    Wouldn’t it be way more cool if there was a device you put in your back pocket that made a puff of smoke look like it came out of your butt…a little horn you could toot toot, at least to let people know you were coming so they could get a way from the SMOKE and fake artificial cancer causing chemicals of the flavor.

    Hey that’s not real flavor…that’s cancer.

    And medical people could say “have fun with cancer…we’ll be waiting for you”.

    Or you could stop…or never start…but you can laugh at the fools.

    Amazing the DOH only lists certain people to avoid E-cigs…seems irresponsible.

  2. CommonSenseish September 11, 2019 2:14 pm Reply

    There needs to me MUCH more information available before anyone gets me to stop vaping. What were these people vaping? You can pour just about any liquid into a vape and try to smoke it, and with the stupidity levels these days I’m amazed kids aren’t trying to vape tide pod liquid.

    I went into a vape shop on Kauai, specifically asked for CBD vape juice that I could add to my current vape juice. I made it very specific I wanted it for vaping. The guy sold a product to me, and when I got home the box said NOT FOR VAPE USE. If I just ripped open the box and put it in my vape, there could have been issues. Luckily I saw that, not everything purchased at a vape store, and not all oils are vape friendly.

    Make sure you know what you are vaping. And vape store guys need to educate their employees more about their products. Not naming the shop cause that was the first time I saw that guy in there and other than that I’ve had no problems with that place. They are always super helpful.

  3. Charlie Chimknee September 11, 2019 9:03 pm Reply

    Trump is asking to outlaw al flavors in E-cigs….but not tobacco flavor…that’s odd…

  4. CommonSenseish September 12, 2019 7:30 am Reply

    Charlie, I don’t find that odd. It would take away the fun aspect of vaping for young kids and might cut it down. Tobacco and Menthol would be understandable.

  5. Mom September 12, 2019 2:41 pm Reply

    This was not the first vaping injury as there was one in August. A 25 year man was medevac from the Big Island to Honolulu.

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