As of the beginning of October, more than a thousand instances of lung injury associated with e-cigarette use had been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Of those cases, 18 resulted in death. Symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain, coughing and fatigue. A few patients also reported fever, nausea, and diarrhea. The symptoms may worsen over days and weeks.

As a result of these reports, President Trump announced his intention to ban the sale of nontobacco flavored e-cigarette products. That ban is still under consideration at this time, but the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) believes it’s the correct move.

“Regulating the tobacco industry in a way to protect the public’s health is an essential part of the puzzle to protect our population, especially youth, from the harms of tobacco products,” said Dr. Nate Smith, secretary of health at ADH. “Federal policy to support and bolster the vital work that state, territorial, tribal, and local public health do to prevent youth from becoming addicted to nicotine is bold and necessary.”

The CDC says most patients who have experienced lung injury used vaping products containing THC, the psychoactive product found in cannabis. That has led the Food and Drug Administration to warn consumers against using any vaping product containing THC. However, the Trump administration’s proposed ban would cover all nontobacco flavored vaping products, whether they contain THC or not.

“ASTHO [The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials] applauds the Trump Administration’s move to ban nontobacco flavored e-cigarettes,” said Smith, who is also president-elect of ASTHO. “Governmental public health cannot always do it alone, and on tobacco policy, the force of the FDA is one that cannot be underestimated in the effort to curb tobacco use in our country—especially among young populations.”

Patients who notice any of the symptoms of this lung disease should contact their physician immediately. The CDC recommends avoiding THC use altogether and for youth and pregnant women to avoid e-cigarette use. Those who do use e-cigarettes should not modify the products or purchase from informal sources, such as the internet, family and friends. Physicians who observe symptoms that may be related to this lung injury should report the occurrence to ADH Outbreak Response by calling 501-537-8969.