CT has first vaping death, 18th in the country
A Connecticut person has died from lung disease caused by vaping, according to state Department of Public Health. It is the first vaping-related death reported in the state, bringing the nationwide total of confirmed deaths to 18.
The identity of the victim has not been released. The patient, who was between the ages of 30 and 39 years old, died last week while hospitalized for multiple medical conditions, DPH reported.
“Sadly, one of our residents with vaping-related lung injury has died,” said DPH Commissioner Renée D. Coleman-Mitchell. “Our prayers go out to the family. We are working with the CDC along with health departments across the country to find out what the specific causes of these injuries are to educate the public by providing the information needed to mitigate the risk of illness and death.”
In addition to the patient who died, six more people in Connecticut with vaping-related lung injuries were reported to DPH last week, bringing the total in the state to 25 cases. One patient remains in the hospital. There are 1,080 confirmed and probable cases of lung injury associated with e-cigarette use in 46 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“As a growing wave of vaping-related illnesses is becoming more prevalent across the country, I was saddened to learn today that tragedy has struck here at home,” said Gov. Ned Lamont said in a statement. “I cannot stress enough that people should just avoid these products completely, and most especially avoid products that were purchased off the street or have been modified in any way. Very little is known in the medical community at this time about the long-term effects of vaping. Working with public health experts — and in collaboration with our neighboring states — we are in the process of developing a comprehensive, effective response to what is becoming a growing public health crisis. But I cannot stress enough — the best thing for people to do is just avoid e-cigarettes and vaping products altogether.”
On Tuesday, state Sen. Saud Anwar, D-South Windsor, a doctor who specializes in treating lung disease, sent a letter to Lamont asking for executive action to institute a “ban on the sales of vapes and vaping products for the next four months in light of the immediate public health risk.”
“The numbers of deaths across the country are increasing and this has already become a public health crisis,” Anwar wrote, adding he is particularly concerned about the appeal of vaping products to youth.
“Vaping products are marketed and sold in nearly 8,000 flavors and come in many different sizes, types and colors,” he wrote. “Some resemble pens, small electronic devices such as USB sticks and other everyday items. The products are often compact and allow for discreet carrying and use — at home, in school hallways and bathrooms and even in classrooms. Because of this, these potentially dangerous products have become extremely appealing to our youth and have become the most commonly used tobacco products among middle and high school students.”
Rep. Rosa DeLauro called the news of the death heartbreaking and preventable in a statement Thursday.
“For years, the FDA has abdicated their regulatory responsibility by allowing dangerous e-cigarette products to remain on the market without any review of their health effects,” DeLauro said. “Their job is to protect the public’s health, and there is no greater failure than today’s tragic news. FDA needs to take these products off the market immediately.”
Tuesday marked the first day of a new law that raised the age to buy tobacco products in the state to 21 years old. The number of Connecticut high school students who used e-cigarette products doubled to 14.7 percent of students from 2015 to 2017, according to a study released by the state Department of Public Health.
“With the rising use of e-cigarettes and vaping products among young people, we are seeing a growing public health crisis and it’s time that we addressed it,” Lamont said during his comments on the new law.
And last week, Lamont met with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to discuss a regional approach to policies regarding vaping oversight, as well as legal cannabis. The pair talked about approaches to banning flavored vaping products, in light of the rising death toll from vaping-related illnesses.
“We don’t have a federal government that is providing leadership on these issues,” Cuomo said at the joint news conference following their meeting. “... If we are on our own let’s hook our boats together and see if we can find our way through this storm.”
A man in Alabama died Wednesday from lung disease associated with vaping, while deaths were confirmed Tuesday in Virginia and New Jersey. Two deaths have been reported in California, two in Kansas, two in Oregon, and one each in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Nebraska.
The CDC is unsure of the specific chemical exposure causing lung injuries associated with or vaping, and no single product or substance has been linked to all lung injury cases. But the CDC reported that based on an investigation suggests products containing THC play a role in the outbreak. The CDC has received data on substances used in e-cigarettes or vaping products in the 30 days prior to symptom onset among 514 patients, and found about 77 percent reported using THC-containing products, while 36 percent reported exclusive use of THC-containing products. About 57 percent reported using nicotine-containing products and 16 percent reported exclusive use of nicotine-containing products.
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