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After vaping death, Montana health officials still working to nail down exact cause

Posted at 3:08 PM, Oct 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-18 10:07:50-04

After a vaping-related lung injury death claimed one life in Montana , state health officials are still unsure of how vapor from vapor products interacts with the human body to cause a lung injury.

EVALI is what the Centers for Disease Control is now calling this disease associated with vaping. It's an acronym that stands for: E-cigarette Vaping product use Associated Lung Injury.

Health officials across the country and within the state still haven’t pinned down a which products are causing the disease.

“With e-cigarettes, there’s a heck of a lot that we don’t know. These really came on the market in 2007 and have proliferated since then," said Montana State Medical Officer Greg Holzman.

On a biological level, health officials don't know how vapor from e-cigarettes interacts with the human body to cause a lung injury.

“To get down to the specifics of what’s causing this, we don’t have a clear answer," Holzman said. "There are some patterns that people are seeing within the lung. But this is a process, understanding an outbreak. There’s a lot of information out there to look at and make some hypotheses on, but I don’t think any conclusive data is out there to my knowledge.”

Vaporizers, (AKA vapes) and electronic cigarettes (AKA e-cigarettes) are widely considered to be the same thing. Both vapes and e-cigs vaporize e-liquid, turning it to vapor that is then inhaled. E-liquids often contain nicotine.

Sometimes they contain THC, the psychoactive compound found in cannabis, which can only be obtained in Montana at a licensed medical marijuana dispensary. Vaping advocates say these products made and sold on the black market are the main contributor to health problems.

E-liquid containing neither nicotine nor THC is also sold and consumed.

The first vaping related death in Montana comes on the heels of Gov. Steve Bullock announcing a temporary, 120-day ban on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes in the state. That ban goes into go into effect Oct. 22.

Vaping advocates are expressing their unhappiness with Bullock’s ban on social media. Many on Q2's Facebook page have raised the question: if we ban vapes, why not cigarettes, since doctors know for a fact traditional smoking causes cancer?

"How long have we known that cigarette cause cancer and why has there not been a ban placed on them?" commenter Brian Sanderson wrote.

Brian Sanderson Vape Comment.JPG<div class="Figure-credit" itemprop="author">Q2 News Facebook page screen shot

Others have been saying all along what the CDC has now recognized: most people suffering these lung illnesses have a history of vaping THC. And the THC-containing e-liquid that national and state findings indicate has been obtained from informal sources.

Q2 Facebook commenter Jordan O'Dell, a five-year nicotine vaper commented, "I also do THC cartridges as well, and still, I'm healthier than ever. It's called not buying off the streets."

Jordan O'Dell THC comment.JPG<div class="Figure-credit" itemprop="author">Q2 News Facebook page screen shot

However, since many of the CDC's known cases involve people who've ingested both nicotine and THC via vapor, the government agency can't rule out nicotine-containing e-fluid as a possible cause.