Vaping emerges as top health story of 2019

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – A new year gives us pause to look back on the previous year. When it comes to health news, some of the major stories of 2019 are quite troubling.

The problem of addiction that’s dominated health news for several years remained as concerning as ever. As Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller explains a key emerging culprit was vaping.

What’s become those all too familiar plumes of vapor in the air represent a nicotine-driven habit that dominated news coverage in 2019. Vaping was blamed for 54 deaths nationwide.

By the end of the year, the CDC also tallied more than 2,500 hospitalizations because of life-threatening respiratory problems linked to e-cigarettes. Many researchers blame vitamin E acetate which is an additive found in marijuana-laced vapes.

In a December 2019 interview, Wyoming Valley Alcohol and Drug Services CEO Jason Harlen said, “If you look at the vaping and the different products that are available right now the accessibility is just immense.” A new, federal law took effect by the end of 2019 — raising the minimum age from 18 to 21 to purchase vaping and tobacco products.

While vaping took hold, another danger remained constant. “People don’t understand. It’s not just the physical. It’s a mental addiction as well,” said Dorie Scalamonti of Clarks Green during an October 2019 interview.

Ms. Scalamonti is in recovery from opioid addiction which claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people nationwide in 2019. Besides deaths from prescription opioid abuse, other fatalities were blamed on prescription opioids used illegally and mixed with heroin and fentanyl.

The opioid crisis led to a growing number of counties participating in COAP which stands for Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Site-Based Program. Federal funding allows qualifying counties to add staff who then analyze data to learn why and how so many are dying from opioids. Lackawanna County is new to COAP.

District Attorney Mark Powell said during an October 2019 interview, “To be able to hire and dedicate personnel in order to address this on a consistent and sustained basis is truly the key.”

2019 also saw a measles surge nationally and globally as anti-vaxxers cited religious, philosophical or personal beliefs to refuse vaccination for their children. Some states passed laws to ban those exemptions.

Jeffery Kile, MD with PAK Pediatrics said in a February 2019 interview, “If there’s major threats to everyone we have to be concerned about that as a society in our country.”

Cannabidiol or CBD usage soared in 2019 although questions remain about medicinal and safety claims. Also last year, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association cited a risk of bleeding to back-off recommending a daily aspirin to prevent a first-time heart attack or stroke.

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