This week, a 50-year-old Kansas woman became the sixth person in the USA to die of a vaping-related lung illness. This outbreak has ramped up health concerns nationwide and Wednesday, prompted President Donald Trump to call for a ban on thousands of e-cigarette flavors.
The woman did have a history of health problems but she became seriously ill shortly after she started using e-cigarettes and her symptoms progressed rapidly. According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, it’s not clear what type of vaping products she used.
Five previous vaping-related deaths were confirmed in California, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Oregon. After the Kansas fatality, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tallied six deaths and more than 450 possible cases of severe lung injury in 33 states and The Virgin Islands. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and state health departments have been investigating this outbreak. Health officials say they haven’t found a definitive cause or a clear connection between cases, but some are zeroing in on potential clues.
The CDC confirmed that investigators believe that the additive vitamin E acetate is a chemical involved in many of the 450 suspected lung illness cases, but officials emphasized it is not in all of the cases being reviewed. Some of the products that have been found to contain vitamin E acetate are candy-flavored vapes.
Wednesday, the Trump administration announced plans to remove all flavored e-cigarettes — other than tobacco-flavored vapes — from the marketplace. As part of this plan, the FDA intends to finalize a policy in the coming weeks that would prioritize the agency’s enforcement of certain requirements for non-tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes, including mint and menthol, in an effort to clear the market of unauthorized products. New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo also wants to ban flavored e-cigarettes and said in a statement Monday that he will advance new legislation to do so.
In a separate move to crack down on e-cigarette use among youth, the FDA on Monday issued a warning letter to leading e-cigarette maker Juul for marketing its product as a safer alternative to cigarettes.
The FDA states in the warning letter that Juul has marketed its products as “modified risk tobacco products” without an appropriate FDA order in effect. The products have been referred to as “99% safer” than cigarettes or “totally safe” — and such statements were made to children in school, according to the letter.
The FDA ordered Juul to respond within 15 working days with corrective actions and its plan to comply with federal law. The letter noted that failure to comply could result in fines, seizures or injunction.
For its part, Juul has maintained that its products are intended to convert adult smokers to what it described in the past as a less-harmful alternative. In other communications, the company says it cannot make claims its products are safer, in line with FDA regulations.
While investigations into these cases continue, the CDC recommends that people avoid vaping or using e-cigarettes.
According to health officials, people with a history of vaping who experience lung injury symptoms should seek medical care.
Nationally, symptoms include shortness of breath, fever, cough, vomiting and diarrhea.
Other symptoms reported by some patients include headache, dizziness and chest pain.