Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) is urging Montanans to consider not using e-cigarettes, also known as vaping, while an ongoing nationwide investigation is conducted into serious pulmonary illnesses possibly linked to the use of these products.
The number of nationwide cases of severe lung illness related to vaping continues to grow.
As of Sept. 6, 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 33 states have identified 450 potential cases of severe pulmonary illnesses possibly linked to e-cigarette use. Five deaths associated with severe pulmonary illness have occurred. Montana does not yet have a confirmed case.
However, DPHHS Director Sheila Hogan said at this time there are a few potential cases in Montana being investigated. “This is a serious health concern and it should be treated as such,” Hogan said. “I’m urging Montanans to take note about what is happening in other states and respond accordingly. While this investigation is ongoing, people should consider not using e-cigarette products. Montanans using any tobacco product, including e-cigarettes, should also consider quitting permanently.”
CDC states that all patients reported using e-cigarette products in the weeks and months prior to becoming ill. Products used by patients may contain nicotine, flavors, cannabinoid products such as THC or CBD, and other chemicals. To date, no single substance or e-cigarette product has been consistently associated with the illness.
Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, and fatigue. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are also common. Symptoms worsen over a period of days or weeks and do not appear to be caused by a pulmonary infection.
Regardless of the ongoing investigation, people who use e-cigarette products should not buy these products off the street and should not modify e-cigarette products or add any substances that are not intended by the manufacturer. E-cigarette products should never be used by youth, young adults, pregnant women, or adults who do not currently use tobacco products.
Hogan said adding to the concern is the high rate of e-cigarette use among youth. In Montana, e-cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product among high school students. The 2019 Montana Youth Risk Behavior Survey showed nearly a third (30%) of Montana high school students currently use e-cigarettes and more than half (58%) have tried them.
E-cigarette products are poorly regulated, and a CDC study found that 99% of e-cigarettes sold in convenience stores contain nicotine, which is highly addictive. “Tobacco products containing nicotine, no matter how it’s delivered, are unsafe for youth, young adults and pregnant women because it can harm brain development,” said DPHHS State Medical Officer Dr. Greg Holzman. “Parents should talk to their kids about the risks and dangers of vaping and everyone, especially young adults, should be aware that this illness is occurring.”
DPHHS is actively working with local health departments, who are coordinating with their local health care providers to investigate possible cases and to keep the public informed. Healthcare providers treating patients with respiratory illness with no apparent infectious cause and who have a history of e-cigarette use are asked to notify their local health department.
Current recommendations for the public include:
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 mylifemyquit.com.
Anyone experiencing unexpected health or product issues related to tobacco or e-cigarettes should submit this information via FDA’s online Safety Reporting Portal.
“Vaping products emit an aerosol that exposes users to a number of different substances of which the long-term health effects are unknown,” Holzman said. “If you do not use tobacco products, do not start using vape products. If you are trying to quit commercial tobacco products, we recommend talking with your doctor who can provide FDA approved cessation medications.”
More information about the investigation is available on the DPHHS website at dphhs.mt.gov.
1St. Michael’s Fall Dinner will be Sunday, Sept. 15, St. Michael’s Catholic Church, Savage, 11:30 a.m. — 2 p.m. Free will donation. Turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, corn, dressing and homemade pies.
2Toddler Tuesday is Sept. 17, MonDak Heritage Center, 10:30 a.m. Come in with your little ones and make art. Ages 2-6. Brief story time and then create beautiful artwork with your little one. Snacks are provided. To sign up, call (406) 433-3500.
3Religious education class begins at St. Matthew’s Catholic Church on Wednesday, Sept. 18. To register your child for classes, come to the parish center on weekdays, 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m., Tuesday through Friday or register online at stmattsidney.com, go to parish life – religious ed. registration under faith formation. A formal registration will be on Sunday, Sept. 15, at the Parish Center, 310 7th St. S.E., Sidney at 10:45 a.m. — 12 p.m. Contact Mary Quiroz 433-2510.
4The Hay Bale Decorating signup deadline is Friday, Sept. 20. Private Message Marci Lynn Sondeno or Amy Conlin to sign up or if you have any questions. If messaging is not your thing, call Libby at Reynolds Market — 406-433-2305 to sign up.
5There’s a whole lot of activity in the area on Saturday, Sept. 21. Stone Yellow plays Punk Roktober in Watford City. Eastern Montana Out of the Darkness walk begins at 9 a.m. in Veterans Park. Rescued and Reclaimed can be found at the Richland County Fairgrounds Event Center. PRCA Extreme Bulls are at the Raymond Family Community Center in Williston at 7 p.m. Check out “Around the area” for more information on all events.
Women’s self-defense is a point of passion for Sidney Police Officer Laura Finn. It’s something she feels the community is lacking, which is why she organized the upcoming Sidney Women’s Self-Defense Course on Sept. 18, 19 and 21.
“One of the things I’ve noticed as a law enforcement officer is women often don’t have the knowledge to fight back,” Finn said. “We can’t overpower an attacker, but women are smart. You have to outsmart an attacker.”
Finn enlisted the help of instructors from Knights School out of Washington state for the course. The classes will focus on awareness, tactics and self-defense, including how to defeat restraints like handcuffs or rope. Finn said she wants to encourage women of every age to take varying courses in self-defense and to become well-versed in defense tactics.
“Montana ranks number 10 for sexual assaults in the country per capita,” Finn said. “That’s what’s reported. There are a large majority of rapes that aren’t report. An estimated 80 percent go unreported.”
Finn said recent events in the community motivated her to get a self-defense course to women in the area. The last course geared toward females she could recall was right after Sherry Arnold went missing almost eight years ago.
“Those girls who were children when that happened are now young women,” Finn said.
Finn has noticed a boost in sexual assault cases in Williston, Billings and locally. Most occur at the hands of someone the victim knew.
“We are dealing with some serious sexual assault cases right now,” Finn said. “It kills me to see a woman in a defeated position and feel like she’s a victim. Sometimes that’s why they don’t want to report. They don’t want to be seen as weak. Female victims of sexual assault are at a higher risk for drug abuse. We know that Sidney and this area has a drug issue. I want to give these women resources to protect themselves.”
The first round of classes will serve as a bit of a trial run. Due to the safety of the women in the course, more information is available by contacting Laura Finn directly or by visiting the event on Facebook at “Women’s Self Defense Course.”
“Our purpose isn’t to make money,” Finn said. “We are very passionate about women defending themselves. We care about our community and we want our women to be safe.”
Cost is $75 per registrant, but no one will be turned away based on affordability. Women are encouraged to bring their own water and Finn said she will also be providing water for attendees.
Sidney Police Sgt. Alex Roselles entered into a pretrial diversion agreement with the state on Tuesday, Sept. 3, for charges of leaving the scene of an accident and basic rule — reasonable and prudent, both misdemeanors. A pretrial agreement is made between the prosecutor and the defendant’s attorney. In this case, Roselles acted on his own behalf.
The prosecution of Roselles, per the agreement, is deferred until Feb. 22, 2020. During that period of time, Roselles must abide by the following conditions: obey all laws, federal, state, county, city and town; pay a fine of $400 to Richland County Justice Court; complete 20 hours of community service and provide proof by Dec. 31, 2019. Upon compliance with conditions, charges will be dismissed with prejudice. If Roselles fails to comply with conditions, prosecution of charges can be filed.
The agreement states, “In the event that the Deputy County Attorney determines that a violation of the conditions occurred, then she shall so notify the defendant, and the defendant shall be given a reasonable opportunity to be heard as to the violation, but it shall be within the sole discretion of the Deputy County Attorney as to whether there is a reasonable excuse or explanation for any alleged violation.”
Roselles signed a waiver of speedy trial to enter the pretrial diversion agreement, which also states any statements made by the defendant as a result of this agreement are not admissible in any subsequent proceedings.
Charging documents state on Feb. 11, 2019, Roselles was in an automobile accident that caused more than $1,000 worth of damage to his vehicle and left the scene without permission from law enforcement. The second charge stems from the defendant operating the vehicle in a manner not reasonable or prudent under the conditions at the time.
In a sworn statement, Richland County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Rhema Keller said he came across the accident at 1:07 a.m. on Feb. 11 on Highway 200 north of Sidney at the intersection of County Road 351. Roselles’ red pickup was upside down in the ditch and footprints led away from the vehicle.
Keller was not able to make contact with Roselles in person or via phone until Feb. 17, when Roselles provided Keller with insurance information for the pickup but refused to speak about the crash.
The sworn statement continues, “During my investigation, I discovered that the Defendant spoke with Sergeant Tyler Kammerzell of the Sidney Police Department. Roselles told Kammerzell that Roselles was driving the night of the crash when he started to slide. Roselles was unable to bring the vehicle back under control.”
The defendant also told Kammerzell a passenger was with him at a friends house earlier that night. She told the defendant not to drive due to his consumption of alcohol and was not with him during the time of the accident.
City officials have been unable to comment on specifics in regard to the disciplinary actions taken with Roselles as a city employee. City attorney Thomas Kalil released a statement on the matter on July 11, “The City of Sidney cannot comment on any investigations being conducted by the Richland County Sheriff’s Department regarding Officer Alex Roselles, or any other person. The City of Sidney can affirmatively state that Officer Roselles received an administrative suspension related to this incident, and that he has complied with all internal discipline required. Any further questions related to this incident should be directed to the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.”