An 16-year-old Arizona girl is recovering at a Valley hospital after a vaping-related illness caused cardiac arrest and plunged her into a coma.
Samantha Hatten-Ford, a junior at Pinnacle High School, was in a coma from Oct. 8 to Oct. 14 as a result of her heavy use of e-cigarettes use over the last two years, KTAR reports.
Hatten-Ford’s case represents a growing epidemic in the U.S. — as of October 8, 1,299 people have been diagnosed with lung injuries associated with the use of e-cigarettes and 26 people have died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
So far, there have been 12 cases reported in Arizona, but no deaths have been reported in the state, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS).
The CDC has not yet identified the specific cause of the lung injuries, but the outbreak has caused an uproar across the country, particularly among parents who have good reason to be concerned. The rise of e-cigarette use among American teenagers has spiked in recent years. The Food and Drug Administration announced in February that e-cigarette use rose 78% among high school students and 48% among middle school students nationwide from 2017 to 2018.
In Arizona, 51% of Arizona high school students have tried electronic vaping products, according to the 2017 Arizona High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
While retailers are banned from selling vapes to anyone under 18 years old, teens have had little problem purchasing the product; the Arizona Attorney General’s Tobacco Enforcement Unit has found numerous retailers across the state illegally selling e-cigarettes to undercover minors.
Some states have responded to the outbreak of vaping-related illnesses by banning the use of flavored e-cigarettes, which the FDA cites as a key reason for the increase in vaping among teenagers. Other states and cities have gone even further and enacated a blanket ban on all vaping products.
Arizona Doug Ducey has indicated he does not support a ban on flavored e-cigarettes, but localities are starting to take action into their own hands, primarily by raising the minimum age to buy tobacco and vaping products.
In late September, Goodyear passed a directive against the sale of e-cigarettes, tobacco, and other related products to anyone under the age of 21. Tucson is moving towards doing the same thing and the city council will hold a formal vote on the measure on October 22.
Schools are also taking action; the Scottsdale Unified School District recently kicked off a 60 day public information campaign via social media that aims to share information with parents and students about the health dangers of vaping and e-cigarettes.
The CDC continues to investigate the outbreak of vaping-related illnesses. In the meantime, the agency has advised people to avoid all forms of vaping and e-cigarette use.