Confiscated vape pens

Teton County Sheriff’s Deputy Andrew Roundy displays some of the vaping paraphernalia he’s confiscated over the last three years at Jackson Hole High School. Since 2016, Roundy has given 25 citations to teenagers for possession or use of tobacco products.

Gov. Mark Gordon has a message for all Wyomingites: Don’t vape anything that has THC in it.

“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.”

In a joint press release with the governor, the Wyoming Department of Health says that two cases of respiratory ailments connected to vaping have been reported in the state. Nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website says, 1,888 cases had been reported as of Tuesday, with 37 deaths confirmed in 24 states.

Symptoms associated with the outbreak include cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever and weight loss.

In the statement, Gordon says he has directed the state Health Department to investigate what can be done about the growing crisis. Little definitive information is available about the exact cause of vaping-associated injuries.

A common correlation between vaping THC — the psychoactive compound in marijuana — and the lung injuries has led the CDC to issue a warning that no one should vape THC products, a position Gordon backed.

Both Gordon and the CDC also recommend that people not buy any vaping products, THC or nicotine, off the streets or add anything to their vaping pods.

Some incidents of the vaping-related injuries have occurred in people who have not vaped THC, including the death of 68-year-old John Steffen, of Nebraska, as reported by The New York Times.

Due to the possibility that nicotine vaping may play a role in the illness, the CDC website warns that “the only way to assure that you are not at risk while the investigation continues is to consider refraining from use of all e-cigarette, or vaping, products.”

Gordon’s statement does not go that far, saying people should “consider” not using nicotine vape products. He does say that pregnant women, young people and anyone who does not currently vape should avoid it altogether.

The CDC updates its website on the vaping injury outbreak every Thursday. The site includes information such as the number of cases reported, a map of where they are and what the agency is doing to pinpoint the cause.

Fears about children and teens vaping have accompanied the warnings from the CDC and Gordon.

Even in Teton County, where tobacco usage rates are low, school administrators and law enforcement are concerned about the rise in vaping, especially since the 2018 Wyoming Prevention Needs Assessment found that 36% of high school students reported vaping within the past 30 days.

“Vaping is not a safe choice for Wyoming’s youth,” Gordon said in the statement. “I’m asking them to protect their current and future health by making smart choices.”

Contact Tom Hallberg at 732-7079 or thallberg@jhnewsandguide.com.

Tom Hallberg covers a little bit of everything, from skiing to long-form feature stories. A Teton Valley, Idaho, transplant by way of Portland and Bend, Oregon, he spends his time outside work writing fiction, splitboarding and climbing.

(2) comments

Richard Jones

Wow. The Governor recommends not using THC in vaping. Isn't THC in any form illegal to possess or use in the State of Wyoming?

Terry Hanks

what's your point?

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