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Lexington-Fayette Health Department responds to vaping-related illnesses

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Posted at 1:57 PM, Sep 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-26 18:41:11-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18)  — Hundreds of new vaping illnesses were reported to the CDC in the last week.

That is just one of many concerns the Lexington-Fayette Health Department has as they work to find answers to something they know is dangerous.

"Really some teamwork that I've never seen in 20 years of practice so that is really heartening. We're all trying to work for the good of the cause which is to try and figure out what's making people sick and trying to--and it really is right now all about the youth and figuring out how to keep them from starting," said Health Department spokeswoman Angela Brumley-Shelton. "Because that's going back to that issue, it's all about the tobacco addiction and the nicotine addiction we have to stop it there."

The number of deaths related to vaping grew to 12 Thursday and the number of related illnesses is more than 530. With dozens of pending cases at health departments across the country, those numbers are expected to rise.

On Monday in Minnesota, a 75,000 thousand THC cartridge bust sounded alarms for the access to the illegal substance.

Just this week in Anderson County, Kentucky, a juvenile was found with THC-laced cartridges. Charges for that juvenile are pending.

Brumley-Shelton explained the cartridges and pods are often disguised. "You are not safe if you are just vaping a product you bought at a vape shop...incredibly important. No one who vapes is safe in this."

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Lawrenceburg Police Department
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Lawrenceburg Police Department

On Tuesday, the Governor of Massachusetts announced the strictest state crackdown yet: a 4-month ban on the sale of vaping products.

"That was a shocking move," said Brumley-Shelton.

She said something similar will take longer in Kentucky. "In Kentucky, we have that identity of a tobacco smoke--or, a tobacco state. And also we have the second highest smoking rate in the nation. Which all ties in to the nicotine addiction and the tobacco addiction so it makes sense that we're not quite ready to go there yet."

More warning signs came Wednesday when the CEO of the popular vape company Juul stepped down and the company announced they're suspending all advertising.

"It is a bold move," explained Brumley-Shelton. "It is a little bit surprising just because they're such a financial powerhouse. It's shocking and it is a number that I head recently but it's still hard for me to wrap my brain around that Juul and Altria which owns 35 percent of Juul they, they spend over a million dollars an hour in marketing."

She said the Department's hope is that the FDA puts out a national ban.

"Really the most dramatic thing we can do and probably the easiest and the fastest, to have the biggest effect is to ban the flavors because it's the same thing we always say. Kids come for the flavors they stay for the addiction. It's not water vapor...you do become addicted."