Maine responds to a national outbreak of e-cigarette-related illness

AUGUSTA – A lung illness associated with the use of e-cigarettes, or “vaping,” has caused seven deaths in six states and led to almost 400 hospitalizations in 36 states. To date, there are no confirmed cases of this illness in Maine, but the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working closely with health care providers and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to monitor for potential cases here.

In other states, most patients reported a history of using e-cigarette products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in cannabis. Other patients reported using both THC and nicotine, while a third group reported using e-cigarettes containing only nicotine. Symptoms have included cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, fever, and abdominal pain. Individuals who have recently used an e-cigarette or vaping product and experience similar symptoms should see a health care provider.

We do not yet know the specific cause of these illnesses. The investigation has not identified any specific e-cigarette or vaping product or substance that is linked to all cases.

“The long-term health effects of e-cigarette use are not known, but these cases show the risk involved,” said Maine CDC Director Nirav D. Shah. “We have heard from schools that youth e-cigarette use has increased significantly in recent years. We need to protect our youth and continue efforts to educate parents, school personnel, students and adults about this risk.”

E-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product among middle and high school students, with one in three Maine high school students reporting that they have used them. Effective Thursday, September 19, 2019, an update to existing Maine law will add e-cigarettes and vaping materials to the list of tobacco products banned in Maine school buildings, at school-sponsored events, and on school buses.

Protecting Maine residents from the harmful effects of e-cigarettes is a priority for the Maine CDC. In addition to monitoring for potential cases of severe lung disease associated with e-cigarette use, Maine CDC continues its work with partners across the state to help prevent young people from initiating use of and exposure to e-cigarettes. A workgroup has met regularly to create educational resources and presentations to increase awareness.

What can you do?

If you vape and have symptoms of lung illness, see your health care provider.
If you are a health care provider and suspect a case meets the lung illness criteria, call 1-800-821-5821 or email disease.reporting@maine.gov.
Schools needing policy or education assistance related to e-cigarettes/vaping may contact a local tobacco prevention provider ctimaine.org/resources/local-prevention-partners/.
Learn more about e-cigarettes in this toolkit.
If you’ve never smoked or used other tobacco products or e-cigarettes, don’t start. If you use these products, help is available.
Free support to quit or help someone quit:

Phone: Call the Maine Tobacco HelpLine at 1-800-207-1230 to talk with a quit coach.

Web: Visit thequitlink.com for support, whether you are ready to quit or just thinking about it.
Support includes developing a plan to quit, texts, advice, and a supportive community of tobacco users who have quit.
Text: The Truth Initiative offers free text message programs for youth and young adults who want to quit vaping or smoking. It presents content by age group to give appropriate advice about quitting. It is also a resource for parents looking to help their children.

• Text Quit to 202-804-9884 to quit JUUL or e-cigs.

• Text QUITNOW to 202-759-6436 to quit cigarettes.

For more information:

- U.S. CDC updates on lung disease associated with vaping https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/severe-lung-disease.html

- Additional resources: ctimaine.org/resources/ends-vaping/

- Maine CDC Tobacco and Substance Use Prevention and Control Program: (207)287-4627 or tsup.dhhs@maine.gov

- Surgeon General’s Advisory, https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/documents/surgeon-generals-advisory-on-e-cigarette-use-among-youth-2018.pdf.