California Health Officials Warn Against Vaping After Recent Deaths

California health officials have issued a warning telling residents to stop vaping immediately, joining the rest of the nation and health experts advising caution while using vaping products and e-cigarettes.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued a health advisory on September 24 urging residents in the state to stop vaping “no matter the substance or source, until current investigations are complete.” The department found that two people in California have died from vaping-related health issues and 90 people in the state with a history of vaping have been hospitalized for severe breathing problems and lung damage.

In the US, there have been more than 500 reports of lung damage and breathing problems associated with vaping across 38 states and one US territory. Due to the outbreak of lung injuries connected to vaping and vaping products, several other states like Michigan, Massachusetts, and New York have banned e-cigarettes and e-cigarette products.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that there have been seven deaths from the use of e-cigarette products. Nearly 72 percent of lung injury reported cases are male and 67 percent of cases range from the ages of 18 to 34 years old. The CDC states that “most patients have reported a history of using e-cigarette products containing THC. Many patients have reported using THC and nicotine. Some have reported the use of e-cigarette products containing only nicotine.”

"We are seeing something that we have not seen before," said Dr. Charity Dean, Acting State Public Health Officer, in a statement. "There are numerous unknown factors at this time, and due to the uncertainty of the exact cause, it is our recommendation that consumers refrain from vaping until the investigation has concluded."

The health advisory comes a week after California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order to direct the CDPH to launch a $20 million statewide digital and social media public awareness campaign to educate young adults and parents on the health risks of vaping nicotine and cannabis products. The department was also instructed to develop recommendations on how “to reduce smoking among young adults and teens by establishing warning signs with health risks where vaping products are sold and on product advertisements.”

“We must take immediate action to meet the urgency behind this public health crisis and youth epidemic,” said Governor Newsom in a previous statement. “As a parent, I understand the anxiety caused by the deceptive marketing tactics and flavored options designed to target our kids. With mysterious lung illnesses and deaths on the rise, we have to educate our kids and do everything we can to tackle this crisis."

"There is a broad and bipartisan coalition of legislators seeking to protect our youth, and we are committed to working with the Legislature and stakeholders to build on these executive actions and put forward a strong tobacco reform package in 2020.”

Newsom also signed a bill by state Senator Jerry Hill that will impose stricter age verification requirements for tobacco products sold online or by mail.

A day after the health advisory, the CEO of Juul Labs announced that he was stepping down from his position amid the crisis. Kevin Burns, the CEO of the e-cigarette company, announced he was resigning from his position on September 25, USA Today reported. Juul investor Altria Group, which makes Marlboro cigarettes, told the publication that it was a “decision by Juul” for Burns to step down. K.C. Crosthwaite, Altria’s senior vice president and chief growth officer, will replace Burns.

In July, Burns, who joined Juul in 2017, issued an apology to the parents whose children are addicted to e-cigarettes and its products, noting that he has a 16-year-old of his own and has “empathy” for them.

“First of all, I’d tell them that I’m sorry that their child’s using the product,” Burns previously said, according to CNBC. “It’s not intended for them. I hope there was nothing that we did that made it appealing to them. As a parent of a 16-year-old, I’m sorry for them, and I have empathy for them, in terms of what the challenges they’re going through.”

Juul also announced that it would suspend all broadcast, print, and digital advertisements of its products in the US and will stop lobbying the Trump administration on vaping legislation currently under consideration, according to USA Today.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.