Colorado is not immune to the vaping crisis sweeping America. With more than 380 reported cases spread across 26 states and one U.S. Territory, young, previously-healthy individuals are landing in intensive care units across the country for pulmonary-related diseases. There are six cases here in Colorado and as of this past week, there have been eight deaths nationwide.

As alarming as the diseases being reported are, the prevalence of vaping behavior is even more shocking. According to the 2017 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, 27 percent of Colorado teens report vaping behavior, which is the highest vaping rate in the nation. Chaffee County youth vaping rates are even higher – 44 percent of Chaffee County youth report that they have tried or are vaping.

(Photo courtesy of Benefits Bridge — United Concordia)

The severe lung illnesses are related to vaping and the electronic vaping devices used to vape. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC), it’s still unknown exactly what chemicals are causing the illnesses. Colorado case demographics are detailed in a new outbreak report, updated each Wednesday via the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Vaping and lung illness web page.

“As our outbreak report shows, this illness is affecting mostly young Coloradans who reported vaping either marijuana, nicotine or both,” said Dr. Daniel Shodell, deputy director of Disease Control and Environmental Epidemiology at the department. “Our advice has not changed: We want people to quit vaping until we have a clear understanding of what is causing this illness.”

The CDC is working with local, state and national partners to track cases and to trace the illnesses to the source. With vaping use continuing to rise, public health departments across the nation are sounding the alarm.

“Any death from vaping is one too many,” said Chaffee County Public Health Director Andrea Carlstrom. “As a county that takes great pride in its health and wellness, now is the time to pay acute attention to the vaping phenomenon that is sweeping the nation, Chaffee County included. We are fortunate to have vaping subject-matter experts at Chaffee County Public Health and also have access to resources and support so that we can curb vaping behavior together– before it is too late.”

(Image courtesy of Medline Plus)

The Chaffee County Department of Public Health offers these recommendations:

  1. The best way to protect yourself against vaping-related illness is to stop vaping.
  2. People who vape should be on the lookout for symptoms: shortness of breath or trouble breathing, chest pain, cough, fatigue and possible fever.
  3. People should not buy vaping products off the street, modify vaping products, or add any substances to these products that are not intended by the manufacturer.
  4. Parents should talk to their kids, especially teens, about the risks and dangers of vaping. Free resources are available to help parents talk to their kids at www.tobaccofreeco.org
  5. People who think they may have been sickened by any vaping product should contact their doctor, local health department or contact poison control at 1-800-222-1222.

According to the CDC, vaping products contain more than just harmless water vapor. They are marketed as a “safe” alternative to smoking, but the long-term health effects of vaping are still unknown. It is critical to understand the facts about vaping and to be able to role model and discuss these issues with young people.

Groups interested in scheduling vaping awareness training for their group should contact Chaffee County Public Health at 719-539-4510 to schedule vaping awareness training.  Residents can also contact Communities that Care and the Extraordinary Teen Council at lsielatycki@chaffeecounty.org or 719-395-0344, ext.107 for other ways to get involved locally.

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