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Following an analysis of reports involving vaping lung injuries and deaths, federal health officials indicate that most of the cases involve men, typically involving users of THC e-cigarette products.
Researchers with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the first analysis of vaping lung injury deaths this week, in the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), outlining data on more than 1,604 cases identified as of October 22, including at least 34 deaths.
Following months of mounting concerns about reports of severe and often life-threatening lung injury with vaping, the number of cases appears to be leveling off and the CDC has provided for the first time a name for the illnesses: EVALI (e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury).
According to the analysis, which looked at 29 of the deaths, 86% of patients reported use of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-containing products in the three months before falling ill. Nearly 60% of those who died were men, and the median age was 45 years for fatal injuries.
Looking beyond the death cases, researchers indicate that those who survived the vaping lung injury had a median age of only 23, with 79% of victims were under the age of 35, and nearly half of all cases involving individuals under 25. Of the non-fatal cases, 70% were males, and 78% were white.
“It is evident from today’s report that these lung injuries are disproportionately affecting young people, CDC Director Robert R. Renfield said in a press release. “As CDC receives additional data, a more defined picture of those impacted is taking shape. These new insights can help bring us a step closer to identifying the cause or causes of this outbreak.”
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.
Last month, a report by CDC researchers found growing evidence that vaping products made with THC may be linked to the respiratory illnesses, but researchers say they are not yet able to make a conclusive determination, and some cases involve users of nicotine vaping products.
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, temporary bans has been declared in Massachusetts and Montana. The New York ban was overturned in court earlier this month.
Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington also have bans, but only against flavored vaping products.
A growing number of JUUL addiction lawsuits are also now being pursued against 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.