State urges anyone who vapes to stop immediately, but decides against a ban

Updated: Oct. 8, 2019 at 6:20 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state Health Department has issued a broad new advisory urging anyone who vapes to stop immediately until more is known about why people across the country who use vaping devices are getting gravely sick and even dying.

But they aren’t yet banning any vaping products ― as some other states have.

The warning comes as the state investigates a second possible vaping-linked lung illness in Hawaii. Nationally, there have been more than 1,000 reports of serious lung illnesses linked to vaping and 18 people have died. So far, there’s been one confirmed vaping-related illness confirmed in Hawaii.

But state Health Director Bruce Anderson said Monday he has “little doubt” that there will be more cases of vaping-related respiratory illness in Hawaii.

“Vaping is not safe, and everyone is advised to stop using vaping products until more is known about their association with serious lung disease,” Anderson said.

He said the second possible vaping-related illness in Hawaii is in an adult who has been hospitalized.

The first case involved a Big Island teen.

Dr. Alvin Bronstein, chief of Emergency Medical Services called vaping a ‘complex chemical soup’ that people are taking into their lungs.

“Nobody wants to go to the hospital. Don’t vape. It’s not safe,” he said.

[Read more: US surgeon general raises alarm about high rates of vaping among Hawaii kids]

The new advice comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and health experts across 48 states scramble to figure out why vaping is triggering potentially life-threatening lung illnesses.

Here are the state’s recommendations in the new health advisory:

  • Do not use e-cigarettes or vaping devices of any kind.
  • If you choose to continue using vaping devices, do not use off-market products.
  • Pregnant women should not use e-cigarettes and vaping products of any kind.
  • Children and youth should never use e-cigarettes and vaping devices.

Gov. David Ige said the illnesses linked to vaping are a “serious nationwide concern.”

"In Hawaii, our children are especially at risk as we have some of the highest estimated rates of e-cigarette use among our high school and middle school youth,” Ige said.

The governor also said Monday that the Health Department will move to ban any products that are eventually linked to the vaping-related illnesses and introduce legislation to further restrict vaping.

An estimated 26 percent of high schoolers and 16 percent of middle schoolers in Hawaii smoke e-cigarettes ― one of the highest youth vaping rates in the nation.

The estimated national average for high school youth is 13 percent.

Health officials say Hawaii children as young as second and third grade are trying vaping.

The Health Department said anyone who feels ill after using a vaping device should see a healthcare provider or call the Hawaii Poison Hotline at 1-800-222-1222. Symptoms to watch out for include shortness of breath, coughing, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, fever or abdominal pain.

Adults using a vaping device to kick a cigarette habit are being urged not to return to smoking cigarettes. For help to quit, call the Hawaii Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-7848-669).

In a Matt Levi Investigates documentary on Youth Vaping, teens said they buy it online or get from their parents and they're doing it in class.

"You can hide it under your shirt and just put your head down," said one teen.

"Or you can just hold the device small device in your hand and make like you are coughing," added another teen.

Teachers say they're trying to get students to say no to vaping because as teachers they're not law enforcement.

"If we called the cops for every single time a kid got caught for vaping, the cops would be at schools constantly. It's an epidemic statewide. Every school has this issue," said Anthony McCurdy, Campbell High School teacher.

Health officials emphasize that vaping is not a healthier alternative to cigarettes.

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