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Missouri Issues Health Advisory For Possible E-Cigarette Health Issues

Health regulators have been trying to keep up with a surge in popularity of vaping products. Officials in Missouri admit more study is needed to clearly determine if e-cigarettes are linked to health problems.
Wayne Pratt | St. Louis Public Radio

Health officials in Missouri are warning residents about the potential dangers of vaping. 

The state’s Department of Health and Senior Services has issued a health advisory for severe lung conditions possibly related to e-cigarette use. It comes after Illinois reported what is believed to be the first vaping-related death in the United States.

Potential vaping-related illnesses are being reported throughout the country.

“They are happening in almost every state,” said Valerie Howard, who manages the Missouri department’s tobacco prevention and control program.

“We have had some incidents reported in Missouri, but we have not confirmed any of those at this point.” 

The numbers related to possible vaping illnesses in Missouri have been trending higher for a few years. The Missouri Poison Center reports more than 600 calls with various e-cigarette complaints over the past 10 years. Also, it has dealt with more than 30 cases of breathing problems linked to vaping in the past five years.

Symptoms could include shortness of breath and chest pain, along with difficulty breathing.

“Some cases have resulted in pneumonia,” Howard said.

The state is following the lead of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in issuing recommendations for dealing with possible health problems that might be linked to vaping. Those issues have been reported in more than 22 states.

Despite the advisory, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services stated in an Aug. 20 news release that more time is needed to determine if there is a clear connection between the illnesses and vaping. 

“While some cases in each of the 22 states are similar and appear to be linked to e-cigarette product use, more information is needed to determine what is causing the illnesses,” the release stated.

Department officials say they’re continuing to monitor cases of recent severe pulmonary disease among e-cigarette users.

Vaping advocates in Missouri point to a recent series of tweets from CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield questioning whether e-cigarette devices are the direct cause of illnesses being reported in many states.

Redfield added people should avoid e-cigarettes that could contain certain substances including THC, the main ingredient in marijuana that can make people high.

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Wayne is the morning newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio.