Vaping death toll rises to 28 as state scramble to stem illnesses

Vaping death toll rises to 28: Panic over e-cigarette use across the US continues as cases of mysterious lung illnesses linked to the habit hit 1,300

  • A total of 1,299 American have developed lung damage after vaping, the CDC announced on Thursday 
  • 80% of the illnesses are in teenagers and young adults 
  • The CDC has verified 26 deaths, but state reports count 28 
  • 76% of the people sickened reported using THC vapes 
  • The latest deaths were reported in Utah and Texas on Wednesday   
  • New York City is suing online retailers for selling vapes to minors 
  • On Thursday, Washington state’s ban on flavored e-cigs came into effect  

Mysterious vaping illnesses have claimed the lives of 28 people in the US, and nearly 1,300 have severely damaged lungs from e-cigarette use, according to the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) figures, released Thursday.  

The federal agency has confirmed 26 deaths in 21 states, but 23 state health departments have reported the deaths of 28 people as of Thursday – numbers yet to be verified by the CDC. 

 The vast majority of the patients – 76 percent – sickened by vaping used THC products, while only 13 percent said they’d used exclusively nicotine vapes. 

Investigators are currently focusing on THC e-cigarette products, which are often illegal, adulterated nicotine pods or juices. 

Nonetheless, the CDC cautioned all Americans to ‘refrain from vaping’ in any form in its latest guidance, issued last week. 

Additional vaping deaths have now been confirmed in Texas, Utah and Massachusetts, bringing the national toll to 28 fatalities across 23 states (red) in the US 

One additional death has been reported each in Texas and Utah, and California and Georgia, bringing their respective death tolls to three and two. 

Of the 1,299 people sickened, 80 percent are teenagers or adults under 35.

It’s an alarming statistic that that fans driving a series of state attempts to keep the devices out of teens’ hands. 

On Wednesday, New York City officials announced the city has has sued nearly two dozen online e-cigarette retailers, accusing them of selling their products to underage New Yorkers. 

The lawsuit, filed late Tuesday evening, comes just  after a Bronx teenager’s death became the state’s first linked to the mysterious vaping illness that has struck over 1,000 Americans. 

Meanwhile, Washington state’s 120 day ban on flavored vaping products took effect on Thursday, following suit with Michigan, New York and Massachusetts (where no vaping products can be sold for four months). 

US health officials suspect that sweet flavors like ‘cotton candy’ and ‘mango’ entice children and teens to try e-cigarettes, leading them to get hooked on the highly-concentrated nicotine in the devices. 

From there, teens may progress to vaping THC and other marijuana products, which seem to pose a greater danger. 

It’s unclear how many of the sickened teenagers used THC, but 15 percent of the total illnesses reported are among people under 18.

Just over 20 percent of the victims are between 18 and 20, 18 percent are between 21 and 24, 26 percent are in the 25 to 34 range, and 20 percent fall in the oldest bracket, over 35. 

For reasons that remain unclear, the lung illnesses have primarily stricken men, who account for 70 percent of the patients, according to the CDC.  

Although President Trump announced plans to ban e-cigarettes last month, the federal government has yet to act to stop the steady stream of vaping-related illnesses and death spanning the US. 

One person has now died of vaping in Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and Utah. 

Three people have died in California and two in each Oregon, Georgia and Kansas.

In lieu of nationwide action, states are turning to local executive actions, bills quickly shuttled through their legislatures and legal actions through civil and criminal courts. 

New York’s lawsuit, filed Tuesday evening in Brooklyn federal court, targets 22 companies including Artison Vapor Franchise LLC, and Vapor 4 Life Holdings Inc. 

All of them are located outside New York.

The lawsuit accuses the companies of violating New York City law prohibiting the sale of e-cigarettes to people under 21 by marketing to underage consumers and failing to take adequate steps to verify their ages.

It seeks an order requiring them to comply with the law, and money damages ‘to compensate the city for the costs of abating the epidemic of underage e-cigarette use in the city.’

‘The kids of New York are the pride of our city, but to these companies, they´re just a source of profit,’ New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. ‘Preying on minors and hooking them on a potentially lethal, lifelong nicotine addiction is unconscionable.’

Artisan Vapor Franchise, and Vapor 4 Life could not immediately be reached for comment.

There has been a regulatory crackdown on e-cigarettes and a growing number of lawsuits by young adults and parents of teenagers against leading e-cigarette company Juul Labs Inc and its parent company, Marlboro maker Altria Group.

Most of the lawsuits say only that users became addicted to nicotine as a result of using Juul, but some allege serious health consequences.

Some states, including New York, Michigan and Rhode Island, have moved to restrict the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. Massachusetts has gone further, instituting a four-month ban on all vaping products.

Last week, a New York judge blocked a state ban on most flavored e-cigarettes from taking effect after an industry group sued to challenge it, while a Massachusetts judge upheld that state’s ban.

On Thursday, Washington’s ban on flavored e-cigarettes – including those containing THC – officially took effect after being passed by the state’s board of health as an emergency measure.  

San Francisco was the first city to ban vaping. Juul, which has cornered 70 percent of the e-cigarette market and has been hit with criticism for targeting youth, is headquartered there. 

It had been the driving force – not to mention funder – behind a ballot measure to overturn the ban, but with a new CEO at its helm, Juul dropped its support and millions of dollars from the bill. 

Los Angeles is now considering a similar ban.  

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