In the wake of reports of hospitalizations and deaths across the nation related to e-cigarette use, officials at the Bear River Health Department are encouraging community members to quit using these products.

“The safety of these kinds of products just has not been demonstrated,” said Lloyd Berentzen, health department director.

As of Tuesday, there have been 28 confirmed and 14 potential cases of lung disease related to e-cigarette use in Utah, some of which are in Cache County, Berentzen said.

Although other states have reported deaths related to the disease, Berentzen said there are no confirmed deaths in the state that he knows of.

“It is pretty clear that these products that they have been encountering have helped to create some of these issues that they are experiencing,” Berentzen said.

To gather more information on the disease and the specifics of what is causing it, state and local health department officials are conducting interviews regarding the vaping habits of those who show signs of the disease. Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, fatigue and chest pain.

So far, Berentzen said they have not been able to track the disease to a specific product.

“If they are concerned about these specific health risks, we ask them to consider refraining from using e-cigarettes,” Berentzen said.

For people who want to quit, the tobacco program manager at the health department, Annie Parker, said there are a variety of free in person and digital resources that can be accessed on brhd.org and waytoquit.org.

“We encourage people to use good, proven resources for quitting,” Parker said.

Parker also said parents and caregivers need to continue conversations with children about the dangers of e-cigarettes.

If people do choose to continue use of e-cigarettes or vaping products, Berentzen said they should not be bought off of the street or modified. Users should not add substances to the products that were not intended by the manufacturer.

“Regardless of what happens with the investigation, the products shouldn’t be used by youth, young adults, pregnant women, as well as adults who haven’t used tobacco products,” Berentzen said.

People who are experiencing respiratory issues should immediately seek out medical care, Berentzen said. Individuals who simply want more information about the risks of e-cigarette use should reach out to the local poison control, 800-222-1222. Members of the public who have experienced anything unexpected with e-cigarette use are encouraged to report that to the department.

Berentzen said it is also important to be careful of THC cartridges.

“Using caution and consideration, being very very sure of what you are inhaling, that is an important part,” Berentzen said.

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