First vaping-related death reported in TN; Officials urging quit all vaping

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)- The Tennessee Department of Health reported its first death related to vaping.

The death is one of at least 33 deaths reported across the country.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigators have yet to determine a specific vaping product causing the lung injury epidemic.

Due to the cases not having a single product in common except for the act of vaping alone, CDC officials, as well as state and local health officials, are urging people to not vape at all.

Kerri Thompson, a public health educator in tobacco prevention with the Knox County Health Department, said even though vaping is different from cigarettes, it can still be just as hard to quit.

“It’s still nicotine, and nicotine is highly addictive. So, in order to quit, you need services that help you get off that nicotine,” Thompson said.

One JUUL pod has the nicotine equivalent to one pack of cigarettes.

Thompson said that for those who use more than one JUUL pod a day or week could have a harder time quitting.

“You’re talking about somebody that smokes two packs of cigarettes a day with that nicotine level, for them to get off that vaping device,” Thompson said.

JUUL and other e-cigarette companies advertise their product as a way of “improving the lives of the world’s 1 billion adult smokers by eliminating cigarettes.”

Thompson said that vaping is not a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes, especially since there isn’t enough data showing how the products effect the body.

“At no time has vaping been FDA approved as a cessation to traditional cigarettes,” Thompson said.

She said there are several ways for someone to quit vaping, and many of them are similar to quitting smoking cigarettes.

She said that the key is to keep trying to quit until you find the option that works best for you.

Thompson offered three free options of starting the process to quit.

“The first being talk to your health care provider. They can talk to you about FDA approved nicotine cessation tools such as the nicotine patch,” Thompson said.

She said health care providers might also prescribe medication such as Chantix.

The second option Thompson referenced was the Tennessee Tobacco Quit line, which is available either online or by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

“It’s a great resource for traditional smoking, smokeless tobacco, but also vaping,” Thompson said.

The hotline essentially provides free talk counseling over the phone, provides a quit coach and sets up a date to try and quit by all in the comfort of your own home.

Thompson said the quit coaches are well versed in the psychological aspects of addiction to nicotine.

She said many people use vaping products thinking it would relieve stress, but in fact, it’s the opposite.

She said it’s a stimulant in the body. Nicotine raises blood pressure and the heart rate.

The third resource is the Truth Initiative, specifically its two programs “BecomeAnEx,” and “This is Quitting.”

She said BecomeAnEx is geared more toward adults, while This is Quitting is geared mainly to teenagers.

“What’s really cool about This Is Quitting is that there is a resource and a program that, parents of youth who are using these products, can be a part of to help them along this process. To help their youth quit,” Thompson said.

She said that the main steps to quitting is finding ways to reduce stress and create healthier habits.

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