Montana health officials on both the statewide and local level are piecing together a puzzle. State epidemiologist Laura Williamson says "a handful" of patients have recently come forward with possible cases of severe lung disease. The case reports are coming from across the state. The one thread connecting them? All the patients have a history of vaping.
Symptoms include, "Coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain and fatigue," Willimason says. "Doctors who see patients such as this are also working them up for infectious causes, and they aren’t identifying any."
Health officials nationwide are investigating up to 450 possible cases of severe pulmonary disease linked to e-cigarettes. The Associated Press reports up to six people have died.
While Montana does not yet have any confirmed cases of vape-related illness or death, health officials like Laura Williamson, aren’t taking any chances.
"At this point, the only commonality with these severe pulmonary illnesses is the fact that people are using e-cigarettes or vaping devices. Until we know more and until this investigation finds out more, we’re urging Montanans to refrain from using e-cigarettes."
E-cigs are immensely popular with young people. The 2019 Montana Youth Risk Behavior Survey showed nearly a third of Montana high school students currently use e-cigarettes, and more than half have tried them.
Williamson urges anyone feeling symptoms of lung discomfort to immediately call their health care provider. Providers, meanwhile, who field these reports but can find no infectious causes for lung problems in their patients are asked to notify their local health departments.
The state health department has advice and resources for those who have turned to vaping to kick the tobacco habit.
From the state health department:
Until more information is known, CDC and DPHHS are advising people not to use any type of e-cigarette product.
Anyone who uses e-cigarette products and is experiencing respiratory issues should promptly consult their provider. If it is a medical emergency call 9-1-1 or the Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222).
Anyone who uses e-cigarette products should not buy them off the street and should not modify these products or add any substances that are not intended by the manufacturer.
Current tobacco users, including e-cigarette users, trying to quit should use evidence-based strategies, which include counseling, FDA-approved medications, and calling the Montana Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).
Youth (anyone under the age of 18) who need help quitting tobacco, including e-cigarettes, can text “Start my Quit” to 1-855-891-9989 or visit
Anyone experiencing unexpected health or product issues related to tobacco or e-cigarettes should submit this information via FDA’s online Safety Reporting Portal.