‘Refrain from vaping,’ CDC urges: 18 Americans have died of e-cigarette illness as cases surge past 1,000
- 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 are under 35 and 16% are under 18
Eighteen people in the US have died after vaping, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Thursday.
There are now 1,080 cases of vaping related illnesses across the US.
For the first time, health officials are urging 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.
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.
The total number of confirmed or probable cases across the country is creeping toward 1,000, at 805.
Deaths have occurred in 15 states, with the latest confirmed in Delaware.
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
‘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.
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