Franklin Countys First News

Four new cases of lung illness relating to e-cigarettes reported in Maine

AUGUSTA - The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention today reported four additional cases of lung illness related to e-cigarette products, bringing to five the total number of cases in the state.

Similar cases have been reported in 45 other states and one U.S. territory. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 12 deaths in 10 states, as well as more than 800 hospitalizations, have been attributed to the lung illness, as of September 26, 2019.

The Maine cases involve one youth and four adults. Most of the cases were treated at hospitals in Cumberland and York counties, and one case was treated in Aroostook County.

Governor Mills has directed Maine CDC to work with the Maine Office of the Attorney General to pursue increased compliance checks on e-cigarette purchases at retailers throughout Maine to prevent sales to youth. Maine already conducts these checks on both electronic and combustible cigarettes but will boost the focus on e-cigarettes.

Maine classifies e-cigarettes as tobacco products, which means it’s illegal for anyone younger than 21 to purchase them. The state also already bans all online sales of e-cigarette products and licenses tobacco product sellers to ensure oversight.

“As a Tobacco 21 state and with robust youth prevention and compliance measures in place, Maine is already committed to protecting our residents from the harmful effects of e-cigarettes,” said Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. “But we must do all we can to keep these products out of the hands of Maine youth, as well as discourage use among adults.”

“The use of e-cigarettes poses short-term and long-term health risks,” said Maine CDC Director Nirav D. Shah. “If you don’t use e-cigarettes, don’t start. If you do, we recommend that you stop.”

No deaths from this illness have been reported in Maine. The cases in Maine, which were reported between the second week of August and the end of September, involve patients who all exhibited symptoms similar to those identified in other states. Symptoms have included cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, fever, and fatigue.

No specific e-cigarette product or substance is linked to all cases. As in other states, most Maine patients reported a history of using e-cigarette products or smoking materials containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in cannabis. Other patients reported using both THC and nicotine, while a third group reported using e-cigarettes containing only nicotine.

Maine passed a law this year to tax e-cigarettes like combustible tobacco products, in part to help fund prevention and cessation programs. Last month, a law prohibiting the use of vaping materials at all Maine schools, on school buses, and on other school property took effect.

“Maine has been a leader in addressing public health risks associated with tobacco use and vaping,” Director Shah said. “Regardless of whether you are using e-cigarettes for tobacco, cannabis or flavoring, you are inhaling something that could harm your lungs. And we must remember that smoking regular combustible cigarettes remains the leading preventable cause of death in the United States.”

The Maine CDC offers the following recommendations:

  • If you vape and have symptoms of lung illness, see your health care provider.
  • If you are a health care provider and suspect a case meets the lung illness criteria, call 1-800-821-5821 or email disease.reporting@maine.gov. Please do not include personally identifying patient information.
  • Schools needing policy or education assistance related to e-cigarettes/vaping may contact a local tobacco prevention provider ctimaine.org/resources/local-prevention-partners/.
  • Learn more about e-cigarettes in this toolkit.
  • If you've never smoked or used other tobacco products or e-cigarettes, don't start. If you use these products, help is available.
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