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The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported six cases of vaping-related lung illness in the state, and public health officials advise Coloradans to quit vaping at least until a cause has been determined.

The department compiles an outbreak report each week that details demographics of each case, according to a press release.

“As our outbreak report shows, this illness is affecting mostly young Coloradans who reported vaping either marijuana, nicotine or both,” said Dr. Daniel Shodell, deputy director of disease control and environmental epidemiology.

“Our advice has not changed: We want people to quit vaping until we have a clear understanding of what is causing this illness.”

As of Sept. 12, 380 cases of the lung illness had been reported from 36 states and one U.S. territory. At least six people have died.  

“Any death from vaping is one too many,” Chaffee County Public Health Director Andrea Carlstrom said. “As a county that takes great pride in its health and wellness, now is the time to pay acute attention to the vaping phenomenon that is sweeping the nation, Chaffee County included.”

According to the 2017 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, 27 percent of Colorado teens report vaping, which is the highest vaping rate in the nation. Chaffee County youth vaping rates are even higher at 44 percent.

“We are fortunate to have vaping subject-matter experts at Chaffee County Public Health and also have access to resources and supports so that we can curb vaping behavior together – before it is too late,” Carlstrom said.

Vaping products contain more than just harmless water vapor. They are marketed as a “safe” alternative to smoking, but the long-term health effects of vaping are still unknown. Carlstrom said it is critical to understand the facts about vaping and to be able to role model and discuss these issues with young people.

Carlstrom recommended calling Chaffee County Public Health at 719-539-4510 to schedule vaping awareness trainings for any local group.

Contact Communities That Care and the Extraordinary Teen Council at lsielatycki@chaffeecounty.org or 719-395-0344, extension 107, for other ways to get involved locally.

Public health recommendations

The best way to protect yourself against vaping-related illness is to stop vaping.

People who vape should be on the lookout for symptoms: shortness of breath or trouble breathing, chest pain, cough, fatigue and possible fever.

People should not buy vaping products off the street, modify vaping products or add any substances to these products that are not intended by the manufacturer.

Parents should talk to their kids, especially teens, about the risks and dangers of vaping. Free resources are available to help parents talk to their kids at tobaccofreeco.org.

People who think they may have been sickened by any vaping product should contact their doctor, local health department or poison control at 1-800-222-1222.

For more information and conversation starters, refer to:

• For free web and phone-based cessation programs designed especially for teens who vape or use other tobacco products: teen.smokefree.gov/.

• For free, comprehensive phone and web-based cessation services that offer personalized coaching (for ages 12 and older) and quit medications (for ages 18 and older): coquitline.org or 1-800-QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669).

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