(WYTV) – As the number of Ohioans who’ve suffered a severe lung illness from vaping continues to rise, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) has announced it’s spending over $4 million to increase education about e-cigarettes and provide communities with more resources to help curb their use.
Tuesday’s announcement comes after ODH reported 10 cases of recent severe lung illnesses across the state that they say are likely tied to vaping.
Fourteen additional cases are being investigated as part of a nationwide outbreak.
ODH Director Amy Action says youth vaping is a public health crisis.
“In one year, vaping went up 78% in high schools and 48% in middle schools. We believe this is the intentional, absolutely intentional targeting of the next generation to be addicted to nicotine products,” she said.
Make no mistake, ODH and Governor Mike DeWine are putting their foot down when it comes to big companies enticing youth vaping and tobacco use.
“We’ve been working to come up with ways to be of help and combat this,” Action said.
Which includes the rollout of several new initiatives to address the issue.
The state plans to spend over $3 million to create and promote resources to educate kids about the risks of vaping and e-cigarettes. The state is also reaching out to school districts, encouraging policies that prohibit the use of vaping products and where to find help to quit.
Another $800,000 will go to public education campaigns specifically targeted toward kids and parents about vaping.
The statewide Tobacco 21 law is going into effect in October.
“We have 10 cases in Ohio that have been confirmed and those are young people ranging in age from 16 to 26 that have been hospitalized,” Action said.
Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it’s aware of more than 450 possible cases of severe pulmonary illness after vaping in 33 states and at least five deaths.
Workers at Larry’s Drive Thru in Poland pulled all of the vaping products from their shelves on Tuesday.
The shop will continue selling tobacco and alcohol, saying those products already carry labels that warn about overuse.
‘We know that and the government knows that, tobacco companies know that, clearly marked that. We don’t know for sure about the vape products,” said Larry’s worker Jerry DePizzo.
DePizzo said the owners thought it was best to stop selling the products altogether, citing that uncertainty.
“We need to get the word out, but we also need to help people know to avoid these products in all forms and then give them the tools they need to quit,” Action said.
Advocates have said that vaping may be less harmful to health than regular cigarettes and can help smokers quit.
Members of the Columbus-based Ohio Vapor Trade Association released a statement on Tuesday saying in part that they want to be included in the education efforts and believe no one under the age of 21 should use e-cigarettes.
ODH issued a health alert to healthcare providers on Aug. 23, along with a CDC health alert, asking them to report to local or state public health officials all suspected cases of serious pulmonary illness where the cause is unclear and there is a history of vaping.
Illnesses were reported in Summit, Portage, Lucas, Richland, Jefferson, Hamilton and Union counties. All the patients were hospitalized but none have died.
If you need help quitting tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, physicians recommend you contact your doctor or go to the Ohio Department of Health’s website for more information and resources.
You can also call the Ohio Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).