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AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala.—Alabama joins a rapidly growing number of states confronting reports of severe illness related to vaping. The Alabama Department of Public Health has announced investigations into five reports of potentially severe lung disease associated with e-cigarette use.
Adrienne Duke, a family and child development specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, said the Sept. 6 report from the Centers for Disease Control identified 450 possible cases of the lung disease—all linked to vaping.
“Alabama was not among the 33 states mentioned in that report,” Duke said. “But given the most recent information from the ADPH that will likely change when the next CDC report comes out.”
Six deaths linked to the lung illness have been confirmed in California, Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Oregon. With the confirmation of cases in Alabama, Mississippi is the only state in the Southeast that has not reported any cases. The CDC said the lung illnesses are likely from exposure to chemicals used in e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that include vapes, mods, JUULs, e-hookahs and vape pens. These hand-held devices work by heating a cartridge containing liquid nicotine and other chemicals into a vapor.
Duke, who is also an Auburn University associate professor of human development and family studies, warns that young people have relatively easy access to e-cigarettes and are vaping in higher numbers than some adults might suspect.
“The ease with which pre-teens and teens are obtaining these products is very concerning,” she said.
Duke points to the results of a recent national study of more than 1,000 12- to 17-year-olds.
- 74 percent of teens reported they obtained a JUUL from a physical store or retail outlet.
- 52 percent reported they acquired a JUUL from a social source, such as a friend or family member
- 6 percent bought a JUUL from the internet
“Minors are easily able to purchase e-cigarettes from the Internet,” said Duke. “That’s because many Internet e-cigarette vendors do not use age-verification measures.
“Some teens borrow vaping devices if they don’t own one themselves and haven’t been able to purchase them because of age restrictions. Every state law is different regarding the purchase of e-cigarettes.”
2019 Alabama E-cigarette Laws
- Legal purchase age: 19
- Banned on most University campuses
- The Stringer-Drummond Vaping Act:
- Requires vape shops to have a tobacco permit.
- Prohibits advertising vape and other alternate nicotine products as a means to stop smoking or a healthy alternative to smoking.
- Requires the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to regulate e-cigarettes and vape products.
- Restricts the in-store and on-line sale of alternative nicotine products and electronic nicotine delivery systems to minors.
- Arrests can be made for selling or giving anyone under the age of 19 e-cigarette products, with up to 30 days in jail, and a $100 to $300 fine.
- Prohibits advertising such products near schools and or opening vape shops within 1,000 feet of a school, childcare facility, church, youth center or public library, playground or park.
- Retailers and manufacturers may only advertise the flavors of tobacco, mint or menthol on outdoor billboards.
Duke offers these tips if you or your child is currently addicted to e-cigarettes, JUULS or any other device.
- Talk to your doctor
- Consider nicotine replacement therapies, including patches, lozenges, gum and other medications approved for the treatment of nicotine addiction, which may help with withdrawal symptoms.
- Get free counseling by calling:
- The National Quitline: 1-800-QUIT NOW or text QUIT to 47848 to get smoke-free text messages
- The National Cancer Institute 1-877-44U-QUIT
Duke and Extension colleagues Leigh Akins and Sallie Hooker as well as Auburn University undergraduate research assistant Devin Van Cleave recently published a comprehensive article on the risks associated with vaping. Find it here on the Alabama Extension website.