First Vaping Death Confirmed in Georgia

The Georgia Department of Public Health confirmed the state’s first vaping-related death earlier today. DPH announced previously that they were investigating nine cases of lung illnesses related to vaping; as of September 19, the CDC was tracking more than 530 cases of vaping-related lung injuries, with seven confirmed fatalities.

Unlike most of the reported cases, the Georgia man had not used a vapor product containing THC. Both the Department and Governor Kemp urge Georgians to follow the CDC’s recommendation to not use any vaping products while the investigation into these illnesses continues.

The notion of urging people addicted to nicotine to avoid vaping may seem like a Sisyphean endeavor. For teenagers who vape, it may be an even greater challenge. The CDC has age and sex data on 373 of the 530 confirmed cases under investigation, and of those cases, 16% are younger than 18 years old. It’s estimated that 20% of high schoolers vape regularly, and in Smyrna, it was administrators from the local high school who, along with other stakeholders*, urged the Smyrna City Council to ban the sale of tobacco products, including vape products, to anyone under age 21.

Smyrna’s ordinance passed the Council unanimously on September 3, 2019. As the number of vaping-related lung illnesses continues to rise, now with fatal results in Georgia, it will be interesting to see if additional jurisdictions follow Smyrna’s lead – and if Georgia’s hands-free law is any indication, that’s not a far-fetched prediction.

*I attended the Smyrna City Council work session where this ordinance was discussed to voice my support.

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