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CDC Reports First Vaping Death in Rhode Island

by Katrina Hapner, contributing writer for Telegraph Local 

It has been reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that the state of Rhode Island has had it’s first reported death due to vaping.  Over the course of this year, there have been 2,506 reported people becoming ill and hospitalized due to e-cigarettes or vaping, the CDC referring to it as product use-associated lung injury (EVALI).  This has been widespread throughout the country including all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Washington, DC.  Overall there have been 54 deaths reported across 27 states as of December 17, 2019.  However, this is the very first vaping death in Rhode Island.

A representative for the Rhode Island Department of Health, Joseph Wendelken, made a statement on Thursday that, “A Rhode Islander in their 70s who passed away earlier this month has been added to the CDC’s investigation into lung injury and vaping.”  He went on to add, “We do not know the degree to which e-cigarette or vaping product use contributed to this person’s death. However, the CDC is including this fatality in its investigation because the individual had a history of e-cigarette related lung injury.”

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Rhode Island has seen five cases of EVALI, which has been linked to vitamin E acetate in vaping liquid.  The CDC has made recommendations that all hospitalized EVALI patients be clinically stable before they are allowed to leave the hospital.  Governor, Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island issued a ban on the sale of all flavored vape products, and was backed up by a Superior Court judge. The executive order gives emergency regulation for 120 days, during which time Rhode Island Department of Health and state workers will be collecting data from the CDC to determine what long-term solutions will be enacted.

The governor claimed that she decided to take action on this subject after the CDC made an all-encompassing statement to individual states to take decisive action regarding vaping.  This ban is not the same as those issued in other states, who completely banned all vaping products for four months.  Raimondo has instead decided to limit availability to adults only and no flavors being sold.  She has chosen to focus on protecting children, who appear to be targets of vape marketing campaigns.

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On the other side of the issue, protesters are worried that the ban will affect small businesses, revenue for the state, and people trying to use vaping to quit smoking.  Studies have shown that vaping is marginally better than traditional cigarette smoking, and the ban could lead people to return to it.  However, a spokeswoman for the Rhode Island American Lung Association, Jennifer Wall, claims that banning flavored vaping products directly stops vape usage by children, who are starting life-long addictions to nicotine.  She suggests instead that people who want to quit smoking use physician approved methods instead.


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