CDC Confirms 3 Deaths Associated With Vaping in California

By Ilene Schneider
Ilene Schneider
Ilene Schneider
October 15, 2019 Updated: October 16, 2019

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says an investigation into a multi-state outbreak of lung injury associated with use of vaping products could last for months.

On Oct. 8, the CDC reported an updated number of lung injury cases associated with the use of e-cigarette products, with 1,299 confirmed and probable cases and 26 deaths confirmed, including three deaths in California.

“At this time, FDA and CDC have not identified the cause or causes of the lung injuries in these cases, and the only commonality among all cases is that patients report the use of e-cigarette, or vaping, products,” the CDC stated.

The agency recommends that people not use e-cigarette products containing THC and also consider refraining from using products that contain nicotine as well.

In September, California health officials advised members of the public to stop vaping altogether.

“We are seeing something that we have not seen before,” said Dr. Charity Dean, acting public health officer, in a statement obtained by The Associated Press. “There are numerous unknown factors at this time, and due to the uncertainty of the exact cause, it is our recommendation that consumers refrain from vaping until the investigation has concluded.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced the launch of a $20 million public information campaign about the perils of vaping, including requiring retailers to post warnings about the health risks of e-cigarette products.

At a press conference, Newsom said: “It’s really unconscionable. Folks that are producing those products, they sleep at night knowing what they’re doing to destroy the health of a generation. The magnitude of what we’ve unleashed on the American public is yet to be determined.”

The CDC reported (pdf) that more than 12 percent of adults in the United States have tried e-cigarettes at least once and nearly 4 percent of adults use e-cigarettes regularly.

Teens have become especially fond of flavored e-cigarettes. Public health officials have expressed concern that sweet and fruity flavors entice young people and contribute to a growing market for vaping among teens.

Vaping increased nearly 78 percent among high school students and 48 percent among middle school students between 2017 and 2018, according to the FDA. In 2018, 20.8 percent of high school students used e-cigarettes, compared to 11.7 percent in 2017.

President Donald Trump has encouraged the FDA to take mint, menthol, and fruity flavors of e-cigarettes off the market.

Research Finds Vaping Reduces Blood Flow

Researchers at the Laboratory for Structural, Physiologic, and Functional Imaging at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia investigated the effects of vaping and published their findings in the journal Radiology in August. They found that e-cigarette use “immediately impacts vascular function even when the solution does not include nicotine,” according to a press release.

The study asked 31 healthy, nonsmoking adults with an average age of 24 years to take an MRI scan before and after using a nicotine-free e-cigarette containing propylene glycol and glycerol with tobacco flavoring.

The researchers discovered that just a single episode of vaping resulted in a 17.5 percent reduction in peak flow of the femoral artery—the main artery that delivers blood to the thigh and leg—and a 25.8 percent reduction in blood acceleration when a cuff was applied to restrict blood flow, then released.

“These findings suggest impaired function of the endothelium (inner lining of blood vessels),” according to the release.

“These products are advertised as not harmful, and many e-cigarette users are convinced that they are just inhaling water vapor,” said Alessandra Caporale, a post-doctoral researcher, in a statement.

“But the solvents, flavorings and additives in the liquid base, after vaporization, expose users to multiple insults to the respiratory tract and blood vessels.”

While more research is needed, it’s expected that other states will take action to limit teens’ access to e-cigarettes.