MINOT, N.D.- The death toll for the mysterious vaping-related illness rose to six after a 50-year old woman in Kansas passed away.
What was once considered an alternative to cigarettes now has many health workers, parents, and school officials questioning the link between vaping and the more than 450 cases of this illness that have put people of all ages in the hospital.
One gas station manager in Minot says she's noticed a decrease in customers buying nicotine pods in recent weeks, but that hasn't stopped all teens from trying to get them.
“We have regular people who come in and buy. I know usage is decreasing,” said gas station manager Amanda Sebelius.
Sebelius said she still occasionally has to turn away a minor trying to buy Juul pods.
With the number of hospitalizations due to vaping-related illnesses rising, members of a new vaping task force in Ward County are putting their heads together to keep vapes out of the hands of teens.
“As a task force what we've talked about is where we're going to expend our energy right now and that’s on education, both students in the classroom and parents,” said Minot Public Schools assistant superintendent Kim Slotsve.
The group's made up of school officials, law enforcement, and other community leaders to try and find solutions to teen vaping. It's a much different challenge than keeping them off cigarettes.
“We know that kids do have access, it's easy to hide, and I think both our parents and our youth are really not aware of the potential health effects,” said First District Health Unit Director of Health Promotion Holly Brekhus.
While there are many questions left to be answered about what exactly is causing the illnesses, Slotsve and Brekhus say they agree that the unknown impacts of vaping are what worries them the most.
The task force was formed in March of 2019 and meets once a month.