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A mysterious respiratory illness linked to the side effects of e-cigarettes has now killed at least 18 people in 15 states, and has likely sickened nearly 1,100 nationwide, according to federal health officials.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an update on the e-cigarette illness outbreak on October 3, indicating that the number of confirmed and probable cases has increased to 1,080 across 48 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This includes 18 deaths.
CDC officials say the increase, up from 805 cases just a few days ago, is due to a mix of new cases and prior illnesses that had gone unrecognized. However, the CDC warns that the number is likely artificially low, and many more illnesses have probably occurred which have not been reported.
“The increasing number of lung injury cases we see associated with e-cigarette use, or vaping, is deeply concerning,” CDC Director, Dr. Robert R. Redfield, said in the update. “Unfortunately, this may be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the escalating health threat this outbreak poses to the American public, particularly youth and young adults. CDC will continue to work with FDA and state health partners to investigate the cause, or causes, of this outbreak and to bring an end to these lung injuries.”
The outbreak was first reported by health officials in Illinois and Wisconsin only two months ago, after several cases of severe lung injury were identified, where e-cigarettes were the only common factor. However, since then, health officials nationwide have either identified similar cases, or realized they had treated similar cases without knowing about the e-cigarette connection.
A report by CDC researchers released a few days ago found growing evidence that vaping products made with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) may be linked to the e-cigarette illnesses, but researchers say they are not yet able to make a conclusive determination.
In recent months, there has been increased scrutiny of e-cigarettes, which have become the most popular form of nicotine among teens and young adults. In addition to the risk of e-cigarette respiratory illnesses, there is also now a new generation of teens addicted to JUUL, which contains high levels of nicotine and was aggressively marketed to individuals who were not prior cigarette smokers.
In response to the epidemic-levels of e-cigarette use reported among the nation’s youth, a number of state and federal officials have also announced new plans to ban certain flavored vaping products.
Bans have been announced in Michigan, New York and California, and federal regulators say a national flavored e-cigarette ban is in the works. In addition, a temporary ban has been declared in Massachusetts.
A growing number of JUUL addiction lawsuits are also now being pursued agains the manufacturers, alleging that the products were illegally marketed to kids while failing to disclose that each of the e-cigarette pods contain more nicotine than a pack of tobacco cigarettes.