HONOLULU – The Hawaii State Department of Health has issued a health advisory urging everyone to stop vaping, no matter the substance or source, until current nationwide investigations are complete.
The advisory follows the state’s first reported case of lung illness related to the use of vaping products and national estimates of more than a thousand reported cases of lung illnesses and 18 deaths associated with vaping and e-cigarettes.
Kauai Kauai Complex Area Superintendent Bill Arakaki said Monday that his staff is “definitely working on the vaping matter,” and trying to educate the school district’s administrators and students about the dangers of vaping.
“We are partners with the Department of Health in reducing the use of tobacco and electronic devises among our keiki,” Arakaki wrote in a follow-up email. “We are working to bring awareness/educate about the risks of vaping and to provide information and tips to our students, staff, parents and community to address this serious health concern.”
His email continued: “We support the efforts of the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Hawaii Kauai Coalition and 808 No Vape and Breath Aloha campaign with the unveiling the mural at Waimea High School and artwork at Kukui Grove earlier this year. We continue to work with Valeri Saiki, the Community Coordinator for Tobacco-Free Kauai, Coalition for a Tobacco Free Hawaii, Hawaii Public Health Institute with presentations and resources in our schools and communities.”
Gov. David Ige said there is serious nationwide concern over vaping, and in Hawaii, children are especially at risk as the state has some of the highest estimated rates of e-cigarette use among high school and middle school youth.
“The state is placing a high priority on investigating lung illnesses related to vaping and our Department of Health will immediately ban any products that are identified as the source of a vaping related outbreak,” he said. “We will also introduce legislation to regulate these products and further restrict their access to our youth.”
An estimated 26 percent of high school youth and 16 percent of middle school youth in Hawaii currently smoke e-cigarettes, according to a press release. This means Hawaii has one of the highest rates of vaping among high school and middle school youth in the nation. The estimated national average for high school youth is 13 percent.
“Vaping is not safe, and everyone is advised to stop using vaping products until more is known about their association with serious lung disease,” said Health Director Bruce Anderson. “Parents are advised to talk with their children about the dangers of vaping, and physicians are reminded to ask their patients with symptoms of lung illness or injury about their use of e-cigarettes or their history of vaping and report cases to the Department of Health for investigation.”
Public Health Advisory
Until the cause of these vaping associated illnesses is determined, the Hawaii Department of Health recommends:
• Do not use e-cigarettes or vaping devices of any kind. If you don’t use vaping devices, don’t start. If you are using a vaping device, stop.
• E-cigarettes and vaping products are unsafe and unregulated. While there are claims that vaping devices help smokers kick their cigarette habits, not enough time has elapsed, nor has testing been done, to verify this claim or the potential for other health impacts. If you are an adult using vaping devices with medical cannabis products, consider changing to another form of medical cannabis.
• If you choose to continue using vaping devices, do not use off-market products. Caution is especially advised regarding the use of off-market THC-containing liquids. “Off-market” products are those available through the internet, purchased from persons on the street, and those which are homemade. Homemade products often involve modifying or adding substances to products purchased at retail stores.