First person dies from vaping-related illness in Connecticut, bringing national death toll to 19, officials say
- One person between the ages of 30 and 39 had died after battling vaping illness in Connecticut
- The person is the first to have died in the state
- 25 people, including five under age 18, have severe lung damage from e-cigarettes in Connecticut, the state’s health department reported Thursday
- This latest fatality brings the national death toll to 19 in 16 states
- The CDC says that 1,080 people in the US have confirmed or probable cases
- 18 people are confirmed dead in 10 states as of Thursday
- Deaths have now been reported in 15 states, with the latest in Delaware
- CDC is now recommending that all Americans ‘refrain from vaping’
- Most patients nationwide are under 35 and 16% are under 18
Published: | Updated: 15:42 BST, 4 October 2019
Connecticut has seen its first death from the mysterious vaping illnesses sweeping the US, state health department officials said Thursday.
With the addition of the Connecticut fatality, the national death toll is now 19.
The state’s health department has not released the name, exact age or sex of the individual who passed away last week, but said that they were between the ages of 30 and 39.
At least another 1,080 people nationwide are suffering severe lung damage from e-cigarettes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Thursday report.
Vaping-linked illnesses have led to the deaths of 18 Americans in 15 states (red) the CDC said on Thursday. Another 10,080 are severely ill after using e-cigs, most of which contained THC
‘Sadly, one of our residents with vaping-related lung injury has died,’ said Connecticut Department of Health Commissioner Renée Coleman-Mitchell.
‘Our prayers go out to the family.
‘We are working with the CDC along with health departments across the country to find out what the specific causes of these injuries are to educate the public by providing the information needed to mitigate the risk of illness and death.’
For the first time on Thursday, health officials are urged all Americans to ‘refrain from vaping,’ they they said in a Thursday telebriefing that they do not want former smokers who now vape to return to combustible cigarettes.
Echoing the sentiments of the CDC, Commissioner Coleman Mitchell said: ‘I am asking Connecticut residents to not use e-cigarette or vaping products.
‘If you choose to continue vaping, you should not buy vaping products off the street or from another person, including a friend, or modify or add any other unregulated substances to these products.’
Although the clearest links continue to be be to black market and THC e-cigarettes, the CDC and Food and Drug Administration say that cases are not limited to these products.
Some 80 percent of the sick Americans are under the age of 35, and 16 percent are teenagers 18 or under.
In Connecticut, 25 people have been sickened and five of those are under 18.
Deaths have occurred in 16 states, with the latest confirmed fatalities in Delaware and Connecticut.
‘We really don’t think using those products is safe right now,’ said CDC Principal Deputy Director, Dr Ann Schuchat.
She and FDA officials on the call said they think it’s unlikely that the epidemic of lung illnesses and deaths has even reached its peak, nor is it declining.
‘And in case it’s going up, we want to intensify our warning,’ they said.
‘This is a very concerning outbreak and very difficult to control.’
Although 78 percent of the cases reported were among patients who had used THC – 37 percent said they had only used THC – health officials are not yet ready to rule out nicotine e-cigarettes as a possible cause of severe lung damage.
Nearly 60 percent of the 570 patients officials have collected data on said they’d used nicotine e-cigarettes, and 17 percent said they had only used nicotine.
‘I wish we had more answers about the specific products causing these illnesses,’ said Dr Schuchat.
‘We’re not optimistic that tomorrow we’re going to be able to pull all those [products that are] risky from the market,’ added an FDA deputy associate commissioner for regulatory affairs, Judy McMeekin.
Although the outbreak of these mysterious illnesses began in the Midwest, the latest deaths have bee concentrated around the South.
One death has been reported in each Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, and Virginia.
Two people have died in each California, Kansas and Oregon.
Most patients – about 70 percent – are male and their ages range from 27 to 71.
CDC Deputy Director Ann Schuchat said last Wednesday before Congress there will ‘probably be hundreds’ more cases.
Working with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the FDA is trying to trace the vapes that have made people sick to their sources and intend to press criminal charges against their makers – but not against users.
‘FDA is not pursuing any actions associated with personal use of any vaping products, our interest is in the suppliers,’ said FDA Acting Commissioner Ned Sharpless last week.
‘But to be clear, if we determine that someone is manufacturing or distributing illicit, adulterated vaping products that caused illness and death for personal profit, we would consider that to be a criminal act.’
On the Thursday call, McMeekin said: ‘We are focused on identifying the products making ill and following the supply chain to the source, not personal use of vaping products.’
‘We do have a lot of concerns about black market sources, but I think it’s permature to rule out other products,’ added Dr Schuchat.
She added that most sickened people were purchasing their illicit THC vape products from the street, rather than in brick and mortar stores or from authorized dealers.
Last week, a major bust was made by local law enforcement in Minnesota.
Police and health officials there seized some 77,000 illegal vape cartridges that contained THC – the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis – a haul worth an estimated $3.8 million.
Commissioner Sharpless said the second prong of the FDA’s coming enforcement actions will be to try to stem the so-called ‘teen vaping epidemic.’
Some one in four high school students have used e-cigarettes in the past month, according to the CDC’s latest figures.
The most popular flavors among under age users are fruity, mint and menthol ones, and companies like Juul Labs are facing investigations into whether their sweet flavored vapes were intentionally marketed to children and teens.
A huge stash of nearly 77,000 illegal THC vapes in colorful packaging branded ‘Dank Vapes’ (pictured) was confiscated in Minnesota Monday by law enforcement officials as US health officials warned bootleg e-cigs may be to blame for hundreds of lung illnesses
Michigan and New York have temporarily banned flavored e-cigarettes and Massachusetts has halted the sale of all e-cigarettes for the next four months. Illinois is currently legislating a flavored e-cig ban.
Sharpless was careful to clarify that the FDA soon-to-come enforcement actions, which have been backed by President Trump, will not constitute a ban on flavored e-cigarettes.
‘Rather, FDA intends to enforce existing law that limits the marketing of such products,’ he said.
‘This policy would not mean that flavored e-cigarettes could never be marketed.
‘If a company can show through an application to FDA that a specific product meets the standard set forth by Congress, then the FDA would authorize that [e-cigarette] product for sale.’
But until then, the FDA will expect e-cigarette companies to pull their products from shelves.
Sharpless said that it is the ‘FDA’s intention to soon finalize a compliance policy related to flavored [e-cigarettes],’ but did specify when ‘soon’ might be.