State health officials Friday confirmed the first case of electronic cigarettes causing a severe lung disease in Montana. The confirmation comes amid an ongoing national investigation into links between e-cigarettes and lung injuries.
The case of a patient in Yellowstone County is the first of its kind in Montana. But more than 500 confirmed cases and probable cases of lung disease associated with e-cigarette use have been reported across the country, including eight deaths.
Greg Holzman is Montana’s State Medical Officer.
"Sadly we don’t have a clear answer of what the cause is. So all we can do is try for prevention. And as we continue to learn more, encourage people to not use the product."
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, investigations have not identified any specific e-cigarette or vaping product or substance that is linked to all cases. But the patients in all reported cases had a history of using e-cigarettes, and most containing THC, the psychoactive compound found in marjanuana.
Montana health officials say they’re looking into "a handful of other cases" that could show a link between e-cigarettes use and lung disease.
The Montana patient was hospitalized at RiverStone Health in August and is now home recovering.
John Felton is the president and CEO of Riverstone.
"It’s pretty widely recognized that this seems to be a growing problem. So medical care providers have been on the lookout for any cases that seem to sort of meet the case definition. It's an evolving definition of the case."
Officials say the Montana patient is in their 30s, but did not provide any other details about them.
According to the CDC, most of the reported lung injury cases are males between the ages of 18 and 34.
The number of highschoolers in Montana who say they use e-cigarettes or vapor products frequently has tripled in the last two years.
Just over 30 percent of high school students in the state said they’ve used them in the last month, according to a 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
58 percent of the students reported using electronic vapor products in their lifetime.