As of last night, more than 450 cases of lung illnesses and five deaths tied to vaping have been reported to federal and state officials. The numbers continue to grow nationally and two teens on Long Island were hospitalized this week for vaping-related illnesses. One of those teens reportedly had to be placed in a medically induced coma and the other had tumor-like nodes covering both lungs.
The New York State Heath Department is investigating the outbreak and has issued a public health advisory as have the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Of particular interest to health officials are reports that many of those who have fallen ill used black-market vaping products that contained cannabis oils and/or vitamin E acetate.
In a bulletin issued yesterday, the CDC wrote, “While this investigation is ongoing, people should consider not using e-cigarette products” and went on to suggest that “people who do use e-cigarette products should monitor themselves for symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever) and promptly seek medical attention for any health concerns.”
Addressing the issue of vaped vitamin E acetate and THC oils, the CDC warned, “people who use e-cigarette products should not buy these products off the street and should not modify e-cigarette products or add any substances that are not intended by the manufacturer.”
The CDC also reiterated its warning that “E-cigarette products should never be used by youth, young adults, pregnant women, or adults who do not currently use tobacco products,” yet some are criticizing federal health agencies for not taking a stronger stand.
In a letter yesterday, Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin from Illinois called on Ned Sharpless, the acting head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to resign if he won’t ban e-cigarettes. “It is my strong belief that, if you do not take decisive action within the next 10 days, you should resign your post,” Durbin wrote to Sharpless. “If you continue to refuse to do your job — which is to protect the public health — then it is time to allow someone else to take the helm.”
In addition to immediately seeking medical attention, consumers can use the FDA’s online Safety Reporting Portal (SRP) to report unexpected health or safety issues with vaping products.