DEAR EDITOR:

The Centers for Disease Controls reports that there have been 1,299 vaping-related lung injuries reported from 46 states and one U.S. territory as of Oct. 8. Twenty-six deaths have been confirmed in 21 states. Colorado has had nine confirmed cases, seven hospitalizations and zero deaths associated with sudden and severe lung illness associated with vaping. San Miguel and Ouray counties have no confirmed cases at this time.

We do not yet know the specific cause of these lung injuries. The investigation has not identified any specific e-cigarette or vaping product (devices, liquids, refill pods and/or cartridges) or substance that is linked to all cases.

The Colorado Department of Health and Environment states, “Colorado has an unusually high rate of teen and young adult nicotine vaping.”

Vaping products contain more than just harmless water vapor. The agents causing this illness could possibly be pesticide contamination, residual solvent contamination, additives with unknown inhalation effects or heavy metals contamination inhaled from vaping products.

San Miguel County Department of Health and Environment and Ouray County Public Health Agency recommendations:

The best way to protect yourself against vaping-related illness is to stop vaping. Learn about free resources available to help adults and youth quit all tobacco products at coquitline.org or 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

People who vape should be on the lookout for symptoms, including 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/know-the-facts.

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.

To stay informed, you can visit colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/vaping-lung-illness or cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/severe-lung-disease.html.

Tanner Kingery, Ouray County Public Health Agency deputy director

Trisha VanHeltebrake, San Miguel County Department of Health and Environment