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Governor urges Wyomingites not to vape THC products amid outbreak of lung disease
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Governor urges Wyomingites not to vape THC products amid outbreak of lung disease

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Gov. Mark Gordon and the state Department of Health urged Wyomingites to not vape THC-related products amid a nationwide outbreak of vaping-related lung disease.

“It’s frightening to see otherwise healthy young people becoming seriously ill or even dying with this outbreak,” Gordon said in a statement. “Like many other parents and grandparents, I’m also concerned about the skyrocketing e-cigarette use among our youth. It’s simply an unhealthy choice for them.”

As of Wednesday, there have been two confirmed cases of the vaping-related lung disease in Wyoming. Across the nation, there have been more than 1,600, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 34 people have died as of last week.

The exact cause of the illnesses is still unknown, according to the CDC.

“No one compound or ingredient has emerged as the cause of these illnesses to date; and it may be that there is more than one cause of this outbreak,” the agency wrote in a statement on its website. “Many different substances and product sources are still under investigation. The specific chemical exposure(s) causing lung injuries associated with e-cigarette product use, or vaping, remains unknown at this time.”

There have been no deaths in Wyoming, though there have been fatalities related to the illness in Montana, Nebraska, Utah and 21 other states.

In his statement, Gordon wrote that he had directed the Health Department to “investigate potential actions that could be taken to address vaping-associated lung disease.” Several states, including Montana, have enacted various bans on vaping products, primarily flavored products.

Kim Deti, a spokeswoman for the Health Department, told the Star-Tribune that the agency isn’t recommending any such policy action. She said health officials reviewed a ban or other actions as directed by Gordon, but the department “decided that promoting awareness is the priority right now.”

She added that while there have been more “potential cases” of the vaping-related illness in Wyoming, there were only two confirmed cases.

The CDC recommends that people don’t vape products containing THC, which is the psychoactive chemical in marijuana. The agency also recommends not buying vaping products off the street; modifying or adding substances to vaping products; vaping if you’re underage or pregnant; and even to consider not vaping tobacco products.

According to a Health Department assessment, more than a third of Wyoming’s high school students use e-cigarettes. Data accumulated by the Natrona County School District earlier this year showed that vaping has grown significantly here. Tobacco use among Natrona County students was up more than 100 percent in 2018-19 compared to the previous school year.

“We know there is a current epidemic of nicotine vaping among our youth and that problem is growing dramatically,” Gordon said in a statement. “Vaping is not a safe choice for Wyoming’s youth. I’m asking them to protect their current and future health by making smart choices.”

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Education and Health Reporter

Seth Klamann joined the Star-Tribune in 2016 and covers education and health. A 2015 graduate of the University of Missouri and proud Kansas City native, Seth worked for newspapers in Milwaukee and Omaha before coming to Casper.

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