Released by: Health Services
For Immediate Release

County Issues Health Alert for Lung Injuries Associated with Vaping

Santa Rosa, CA  –  August 30, 2019  –  A Health Alert has been issued for lung injuries related to vaping cannabis, cannabis oils or nicotine products in Sonoma County after the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued a statewide Health Alert. There are currently no cases of vaping-related lung illness reported in the County, however Health Officer, Dr. Celeste Philip, has requested local clinicians to watch for symptoms, inquire about use of vaping products, and report any suspected cases.    

Since June, 36 cases of vaping-associated lung illness requiring hospitalization were reported in California. In Kings County, located in California’s Central Valley region, seven patients experienced trouble breathing that worsened after an initial diagnosis of pneumonia or bronchitis. Those patients reported vaping cannabis or cannabis-based oils in the weeks prior to hospital admission and failed to respond to antibiotic treatment. Medical tests for infectious disease were negative. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) are investigating 193 potential cases of severe lung illness associated with e-cigarette product use reported by 22 states, including California, over the past three months. One death has been confirmed.

Most patients nationwide report vaping the cannabis compounds THC and/or cannabidiol (CBD), and some also report vaping nicotine products. The exact cause of the illnesses is currently unknown.

The Health Alert requests clinicians to report similar cases to the Sonoma County Department of Health Services (DHS) Public Health Division and collect associated vaping products for testing. 

“Although the Health Alert document is for clinicians, we want all residents and visitors in Sonoma County to be aware of these serious lung injuries. Much is unknown about the risks of vaping, and it has even been touted as a harm-reduction method, which has likely increased its popularity as a perceived safer alternative to cigarettes. As we learn more about the cause of these injuries, I urge individuals to limit their use of vaping products or quit using them altogether,” said Dr. Philip.

The use of electronic cigarettes, commonly known as “vaping”, involves inhaling an aerosol into the lungs. The devices come in many forms, but all use a battery to heat up liquids typically containing nicotine and chemical flavorings, but which can also be used to consume drugs such as cannabis.

Cases of lung injury related to vaping come in the context of rapid increases in vaping rates across Sonoma County. In 2018, more than one in four 11th graders in Sonoma County reported vaping on a regular basis, a seven percent increase from the 2016 rate.

In April 2016, with support from DHS, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors voted to enact a tobacco retail license (TRL). Prior to that, in 2014, the City of Healdsburg passed a TRL ordinance. Similar ordinances, which include partial and full bans on the sale of flavored tobacco products have passed in the Town of Windsor, City of Sonoma, and City of Cloverdale.

For help quitting vaping or smoking call California’s Helpline at 1-800-No-Butts or visit the following websites www.smokefree.gov and www.becomeanex.org. You can also get help by texting “QUIT” to (202) 804-9884 or text “DITCHJUUL” to 88709.

Link to Health Alert: http://sonomacounty.ca.gov/Health/Public-Health/Disease-Control/Vaping-Associated-Pulmonary-Injury-Health-Alert/.


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