Seventh Person Dies of Vaping-Related Lung Illness as CDC Ramps Up Probe

September 17, 2019 Updated: September 17, 2019

A California man has become the seventh person to die of a lung disease linked to vaping, health officials say.

The case was confirmed (pdf) by Tulare County public health officials on Sept. 16, the same day the Center for Disease Control (CDC) announced it had activated an emergency operations center to handle the ongoing probe into cases of lung injury associated with electronic cigarettes or vaping.

California health officials released few details in the most recent case, according to Visalia Times-Delta, saying only that the man was older than 40 and suffered from other health problems in addition to the vaping-related symptoms.

“With sadness, we report that there has been a death of a Tulare County resident suspected to be related to severe pulmonary injury associated with vaping,” Dr. Karen Haught, Tulare County public health officer, said in a statement.

Haught warned that the use of e-cigarettes “poses a possible risk to the health of the lungs.”

E-cigarettes on display
E-cigarettes on display. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

“Long-term effects of vaping on health are unknown,” she said. “Anyone considering vaping should be aware of the serious potential risk.”

The first vaping-related death was reported less than a month ago, with a flurry of other cases soon following, after the CDC had begun to investigate a growing number of non-fatal cases. The CDC reported on Sept. 12 a total of six vaping-linked deaths, along with 380 non-fatal cases of lung disease.

The cases have been reported across 36 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

According to the CDC, most of the patients had a history of using vaping products containing THC—the main psychoactive found in marijuana.

“Many patients have reported using THC and nicotine,” the CDC said. “Some have reported the use of e-cigarette products containing only nicotine.”

Vaping companies blame the recent hospitalizations on the growing black market in homemade vaping pods filled with THC, known as dab sticks. Health officials have warned people against buying vaping products on the street or using marijuana-derived oil. They have said people should avoid inhaling vitamin E acetate, an ingredient found in some vaping products.

The recent cases have also brought the use of flavored e-cigarettes under scrutiny, with critics claiming that they attract young people to the habit.

President Donald Trump announced Sept. 11 that his administration would propose banning thousands of flavors of e-cigarettes.

“People are going to watch what we’re saying, and parents are going to be a lot tougher with respect to their children,” he said.

Trump added on Sept. 13, “While I like the Vaping alternative to Cigarettes, we need to make sure this alternative is SAFE for ALL!”

A high school principal displays vaping devices that were confiscated from students
A high school principal displays vaping devices that were confiscated from students in such places as restrooms or hallways at the school in Massachusetts on Apr. 10, 2018. (AP/Steven Senne)

“Let’s get counterfeits off the market, and keep young children from Vaping!” he said.

First Lady Melania Trump has also drawn attention to the issue, saying she’s “deeply concerned” about children using the devices.

An Illinois teenager who was told he had the lungs of a 70-year-old after 18 months of vaping recently filed a lawsuit against Juul Labs, one of the main e-cigarette companies.

The suit argues that the company’s advertisements and social media campaigns implied that children could boost their social status by vaping, and that the company never fully disclosed that its products contain dangerous chemicals.

Juul said it has “never marketed to youth” and has ongoing campaigns to combat underage use, adding that its products are meant to help adult smokers wean themselves off traditional paper-and-tobacco cigarettes.

Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.

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