U.S. health officials announced on Oct. 3 that the number of deaths and mysterious lung illnesses linked to electronic cigarettes and vaping are continuing to rise.
At least 1,080 people from across 48 states and one U.S. territory have reported a lung injury illness associated with using a vaping product, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That’s up from 805 cases the agency said it was investigating last week.
Deaths associated with vaping products also rose, with 18 fatalities now confirmed across 15 states, the center said. Last week, there were 15 confirmed deaths.
The agency said every patient reported a history of using e-cigarettes or vaping products and that most of them reported a history of using products containing THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive compound in marijuana.
Approximately 80 percent of patients were under 35 years old, and 70 percent were male. Patients between the ages of 18 and 20 years old accounted for 21 percent of all victims.
The exact cause of the recent spate of illnesses and deaths remains unknown.
Dr. Anne Schuchat, the principal deputy director of the CDC, told reporters on a conference call that the outbreak shows no signs that it’s peaked. She said the CDC has sent staff to several states to bolster the response and get the word out to doctors about how to recognize the illness.
“I cannot stress enough the seriousness of these injuries. This is a critical issue. We need to take steps to prevent additional cases,” Schuchat said.
E-cigarettes have been marketed as tools to help people quit smoking, but rising use of the devices among youth in the United States and the recent spate of illnesses and deaths tied to those devices have triggered a backlash and heightened regulatory scrutiny.
Judy McMeekin, an official with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said the agency had collected more than 440 vaping product samples from 18 states for testing so far.
“The samples show a mix of results, and no one substance has been identified in all of the samples tested,” she said.
Last week, the center recommended that people stop using e-cigarettes or vaping products, particularly those that contain THC oils.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine earlier this month found that more than half of the lung illness patients extensively interviewed in Wisconsin and Illinois reported having used the “Dank Vapes” brand.
Erin Rice Mills, a New York mother and advocate from the national grassroots group “Parents Against Vaping,” previously told Epoch Times that the rise of counterfeit vaping products, black-market vendors, and the lack of regulation are creating a toxic mix.
“It’s the Wild West right now in the vaping industry,” Mills said. “It really is an urgent matter that needs to be addressed.”
Vaping products can easily be altered through reselling or through the black market, according to Mills. Because of this, tracking the epidemic is difficult. Mills said e-cigarette companies such as Juul have failed to take action, and she called them unethical in the targeted marketing of their flavored products toward youth.
Reuters contributed to this report