Vaping-Related Death Toll Rises to 18 as Health Officials Sound the Alarm on E-Cigarette Use

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Thursday that the number of people who have died from a vaping-related illness has increased to 18 as of Wednesday.

The number of vaping-related illnesses has also increased to 1,080 people in 48 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Both statistics are likely to further increase as the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continue to investigate illnesses and deaths in each state. The increase in cases — up from 805 since last week— includes people who became ill over the course of the previous two weeks.

“Unfortunately, the outbreak of pulmonary injury associated with e-cigarette use, or vaping, is continuing at a brisk pace,” said CDC principal deputy director Anne Schuchat in a press call Thursday.

On Sept. 27, the CDC announced THC, a compound found in marijuana, is tied to hundreds of cases and at least 12 deaths. On Thursday, the CDC announced the ages of those who have died from vaping-related illnesses range from people in their 20s to people in their 70s—and the majority of the deaths are women although men make up 70% of illnesses reported so far.

The CDC and FDA have not yet announced a link to one particular product, but said they have information on products used by 578 patients so far. Of them, about 78% used products that contained THC. As the investigation continues, they said those percentages might change.

Mayo Clinic researchers released a study Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine that found signs of lung damage similar to exposure to toxic chemicals, gases or other substances in 17 samples they independently studied. CDC and FDA officials told reporters Thursday that they found the study helpful in raising questions and alarms, but added it is too early to make any wide-ranging conclusions.

“We hope that in the months ahead we’ll learn a lot more about the spectrum of lung conditions that these exposures are having,” Schuchat said.

FDA deputy associate commissioner for regulatory affairs Judy McMeekin also told reporters Thursday that the entity has collected 440 samples and found THC concentration in those samples range from 14% to 76%. Some products also contained concentrations of a mix of THC and Vitamin E Acetate ranging from 31% to 88%. Examinations of those samples aren’t complete, McMeekin added.

The Trump Administration has made moves to ban all flavored e-cigarettes from the market, but several states have already passed their own bans, including Michigan, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and California—the home state of Juul, the industry’s leading e-cigarette maker.

The CDC and FDA continue to urge the public not to vape at all.

“It is pretty much impossible to know what is in your e-cigarette vaping product,” Schuchat said. “With all the data that I’ve been seeing, I don’t know what safe is right now.”

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Contributor: Jasmine Aguilera