As of September 11, 2019, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) has reported 10 confirmed cases of severe pulmonary illness that’s likely due to vaping, while we are investigating 14 other reports of illness. Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is aware of 450 possible cases in 33 states and is reporting that there have been at least two deaths, while the media has reported five deaths.
The unprecedented increase in vaping by youth and young adults, in particular -- 78 percent increase in reported use between 2017 and 2018 for high school students and 48 percent increase for middle school students -- has prompted the U.S. Surgeon General to issue a public health advisory , which is an action taken only four times in the last 20 years. As you know, this is a serious public health concern, especially among our children and young adults, and the current investigation into vaping-related severe respiratory illnesses and deaths is an additional warning that we must be vigilant in protecting our youth.
Because vaping products contain nicotine, the ODH and many other state and federal agencies, including the CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), consider e-cigarettes to be non-combustible tobacco products. They are particularly harmful to youth and young adults who may more easily develop a nicotine addiction because their brains are still developing. Additionally, there is substantial evidence to suggest that when youth are introduced to electronic vapor products, they are more likely to try traditional tobacco products than if they never tried electronic vapor products. This increase in youth use is halting the progress made over the past decade to prevent new life-long addictions to tobacco.
The Ohio Department of Health has been following the use of electronic vapor products, including JUUL and JUUL-related products, by youth and has received many requests for information about these products from school districts and youth agencies. JUUL products are relatively new but have already captured nearly 70 percent of the e-cigarette market and have surpassed traditional cigarettes as the most used tobacco product by youth.
Ohio’s new law prohibiting sale of tobacco products to people under the age of 21 (T21), which will take effect October 17, 2019, will also assist communities in preventing youth from accessing and using tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and other vaping products.