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Missouri officials confirm second vaping-related death in state


The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) confirmed Thursday evening a second person has died from a vaping-related illness. 

The woman, who was in her mid-50s, had experienced a long-standing underlying chronic lung condition, DHSS said. Her death is associated with the use of e-cigarettes or vaping products, officials said. 

It is unclear exactly when the unidentified woman died. 

“Sadly, we report the tragic impact e-cigarettes have had on another Missourian, and we send our condolences to her family,” DHSS Director Randall Williams said in a statement. “As previously stated, we encourage Missourians to follow the CDC guidance to refrain from using e-cigarette products if you are concerned about these specific health risks, especially while the investigation is ongoing.” 

DHSS confirmed the first vaping-related death in Missouri in September. The man, who was in his mid-40s at the time of his death, had not experienced any lung illnesses in the past, officials said. 

Since the health department mandated physicians report possible lung injuries associated with vaping in August, it has identified 35 cases throughout the state, DHSS said Thursday. 

Since Nov. 13, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified 42 deaths in 24 states and Washington, D.C., related to vaping. Additionally, there have been more than 2,100 cases of lung injury associated with vaping or e-cigarette use from every state except Alaska. 

Gov. Mike Parson signed an executive order last month creating a statewide campaign to “educate, warn, and discourage vaping among Missouri’s youth.” 

The executive order directs DHSS, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), and the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to coordinate a statewide campaign to relay the health risks of vaping for young people. The departments will have to use existing resources — meaning additional funding will not be thrown their way for the campaign. 

Additionally, the order directs the departments to review cases and vaping-related injuries and tailor campaigns to counter-market to youth. 

“This is truly an epidemic, and we must take action to protect the young people of our state,” Parson told reporters Tuesday morning. 

It is already illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to purchase or use vaping products. However, the Republican governor said there’s been an influx of youth across the country, including in Missouri, who are vaping. He said the number of middle and high school students who use these products have jumped to nearly 27 percent last year from around 19 percent in 2014. 

Williams previously told The Missouri Times the cases seen in the state track with trends at the national level: The median age for someone with a pulmonary illness related to e-cigarette use is 19, and the majority of cases are male. 

And a “common denominator” seems to be tampering with devices, he said. 

“People are taking a device and using it in a way it’s not intended to be used or putting something in it that it wasn’t intended to have,” Williams said. “Many of these patients are using THC, tampering with the device in some way, or [are] using vitamin E to thicken the solution that’s heated up. 

DHSS is encouraging those who want help quitting tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to reach out to a doctor or the Missouri Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-784-8669. Individuals can also text DITCHJUUL to 88709.