CDC Confirms 5 Deaths Possibly Linked to Vaping, E-Cigarettes

By Kharen Martinez Murcia | September 10, 2019 | 11:19am EDT
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( – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced that more than “450 possible cases of lung illness” associated with e-cigarette use (vaping) in the United States have been reported to the agency as of  Sept. 6, 2019, and that five deaths, possibly linked to vaping, have been confirmed.

“While this investigation is ongoing,” the CDC advised that people “consider not using e-cigarette products.” In addition, the CDC said youth, young adults, and pregnant women should not use e-cigarettes or vape.       

If you vape, “you should not buy these products off the street (for example, e-cigarette products with THC or other cannabinoids),” said the health agency. Also, “you should not modify e-cigarette products or add any substances to these products that are not intended by the manufacturer.”

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During a Sept. 6 telebriefing, the CDC’s Dr. Dana Meaney Delman, the Incident Manager for the response to the outbreak, said,  “As we work to identify what is causing otherwise healthy young people to become ill [...] CDC has advised that individuals consider not using e-cigarettes because as of now, this is the primary means of preventing this type of severe lung disease.” 

Juul, a major e-cigarette seller, states that its goal is to improve  “the lives of the world's one billion adult smokers by eliminating cigarettes. We envision a world where fewer people use cigarettes, and where people who smoke cigarettes have the tools to reduce or eliminate their consumption entirely.”

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says, “E-cigarettes are not approved by the FDA as an aid to quit smoking and may expose users to some of the same toxic chemicals found in combustible cigarette smoke. There are other proven, safe, and effective methods for quitting smoking.”

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Also, “[m]any of the [e-cigarette] samples tested by the states or by the FDA as part of this ongoing investigation have been identified as vaping products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC, a psychoactive component of the marijuana plant),” said the agency.

“Consumers are urged to avoid buying vaping products on the street, and to refrain from using THC oil or modifying/adding any substances to products purchased in stores,” added the FDA. “Additionally, no youth should be using any vaping product, regardless of the substance.”

According to the FDA , the  minimum legal sales age for e-cigarettes rise from 18 to 20 on July 1, 2020 and to age 21 on July 1, 2021.

As for the marketing of e-cigarettes, in 2016 the Public Health Law Center reported that, “Unlike ads for cigarettes, little cigars, and smokeless (chewing) tobacco, which are effectively banned on broadcast stations, there are currently few Federal rules on e-cigs.”

As for the five confirmed deaths that may be linked to vaping, Dr. Daniel Fox, with Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine, WakeMed Health & Hospital in North Carolina, said in the telebriefing:

“What we wanted to report and what we have seen has been a cluster of five cases that will be reported later today. Each of these cases featured a pulmonary illness in a relatively young person. Ranging in age from 18-35 from what we saw here in North Carolina.

“The symptoms that these patients were experiencing were being short of breath, having some GI or gastrointestinal symptoms of nausea and vomiting and fevers. Even though this frequently can show up as an infectious-appearing illness, it ended up not being an infection. And as a result of the work-up that was done and the history that was taken, one of the things that was found in common with all of these cases is that all patients were using vaped substances in e-cigarettes. They all had abnormal chest x-rays and developed a need for a lot of oxygen. And that varied across each patient. But a couple of them required intensive care status to be cared for.

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“During the work-up and the history, all the patients that we saw had used or consumed THC through their vaped, vaping devices through the e-cigarette. And that seemed to be a common feature. Some used smoked THC as well. And most used nicotine-containing products as well.

“All of our patients underwent evaluation, and after the clinical evaluation we found a certain type of pneumonia that was noninfectious. It’s called lipoid pneumonia. Basically, can be, it can occur when either oils or lipid-containing substances enter the lungs.

“So we are, we have been very thankful and are very appreciative to the CDC for helping us get this message out. I think take-home messages here for the public is that vaping cartridges, particularly those vaping cartridges that may not be, that may have been purchased off the street or, where the substances in them are not entirely clear, we do not believe are safe and pose a risk to our patients, particularly our young patients.” (Emphasis added.)

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