Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018 file photo, a woman takes a puff from a cannabis
vape pen in Los Angeles. On Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, U.S. health officials
are again urging people to stop vaping until they figure out why some
are coming down with serious breathing illnesses. (AP Photo/Richard
New York (AP) —
U.S. health officials on Friday again urged people to stop vaping until
they figure out why some are coming down with serious breathing
Officials have identified about 450
possible cases, including as many as five deaths, in 33 states. The
count includes newly reported deaths in California, Indiana and
No single vaping device, liquid or
ingredient has been tied to all the illnesses, officials said. Many of
the sickened — but not all — were people who said they had been vaping
THC, the chemical that gives marijuana its high. Many are teens.
Health officials have only been
counting certain lung illnesses in which the person had vaped within
three months. Doctors say the illnesses resemble an inhalation injury,
with the body apparently reacting to a caustic substance that someone
breathed in. Symptoms have included shortness of breath, fatigue, chest
pain and vomiting.
The illnesses have all surfaced
this year, and the number has been growing quickly in the last month as
more states have begun investigations. A week ago, U.S. officials pegged
the number at 215 possible cases in 25 states.
It’s unclear whether such illnesses
were happening before this year.
“We’re all wondering if this is new
or just newly recognized,” Dr. Dana Meaney-Delman of the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention told reporters Friday.
An Illinois health official, Dr.
Jennifer Layden, said officials there don’t know when such illnesses
first began, but she said there has been a marked increase since spring.
Deaths previously were reported in
Illinois and Oregon.
Indiana officials said the person
who died there was an adult, but they didn’t say when it happened or
release other details. Health officials in Los Angeles said they were
investigating a vaping death as well. And Minnesota health officials
said that state’s first known vaping-related death was a person over 65
years with a history of lung problems who had vaped illicit THC products
and died in August.
Recent attention has been focused
on devices, liquids, refill pods and cartridges that are not sold in
New York State has focused its
investigation on an ingredient called Vitamin E acetate, which has been
used to thicken marijuana vape juice but is considered dangerous if
heated and inhaled. State investigators have found the substance in 13
cartridges collected from eight patients. In several cases, the
ingredient made up more than half of the liquid in the cartridge.
CDC officials said they are looking
at several ingredients, including Vitamin E acetate. But Meaney-Delman
added that no single factor has been seen in every case.
Also Friday, the New England
Journal of Medicine released a series of articles that give medical
details about cases reported in Illinois, Wisconsin and Utah.
An article on 53 illnesses in
Illinois and Wisconsin noted that nearly one-fifth of the cases were
people who said they vaped nicotine and not anything that contained THC
or CBD oil.
For that reason, doctors and health
officials are continuing to suggest people stay away from all vaping
products until the investigation establishes exactly what’s at the root
of the illnesses.
Meaney-Delman said avoiding vaping
is “the primary means of preventing this severe lung disease.”
It’s not yet clear what impact the
recent illnesses are having on vaping rates, but some health officials
are hoping more Americans will become wary.
There’s been a split among public
health experts about the value of vaping nicotine. Some argue
e-cigarettes are not as lethal as conventional cigarettes and can be a
valuable aide to smokers trying to kick the habit.
But others say studies have not
established that adult smokers who try vaping end up quitting smoking
long term. And they fear that kids who might never have picked up
cigarettes are taking up vaping.
The National Association of County
and City Health Officials “has long been cautious about endorsing
e-cigarettes even before the recent spate of illnesses, because little
scientific evidence exists to show that e-cigarettes and other nicotine
delivery devices are effective cessation devices,” spokeswoman Adriane
Casalotti said in a statement.
The states reporting vaping-related
lung illnesses to the CDC are Arkansas, California, Colorado,
Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana,
Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana,
North Carolina, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio,
Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia,
Vermont, Wisconsin, and West Virginia.