Second person dies from mystery vaping-linked illness as fears grow over e-cigarettes

'It's kind of scary and it's hard to believe that any vaping is really safe at this point,' health official says

Conrad Duncan
Thursday 05 September 2019 10:16
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A second person has died from a severe respiratory illness that could be linked to vaping, according to health officials in the US state of Oregon.

The deceased had recently used an electronic cigarette containing marijuana oil from a legal dispensary, they said.

It is the second death linked to vaping in the US and the first tied to a vaping product bought at a cannabis shop.

However, officials have not determined what caused the middle-aged adult to get sick, whether the product was contaminated or whether the person had tampered with the device after buying it, said Dr Ann Thomas from the Oregon Health Authority.

Declining to name the vaping device's brand or the dispensary which issued it, she added: "Our investigation has not yielded exactly what it is in this product. At this point, some of the other states have more data than us.

"It's kind of scary and it's hard to believe that any vaping is really safe at this point.”

Last month, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported what they believed was the first US death linked to vaping after a person contracted a serious lung disease.

It is not known in that case if the e-cigarette involved contained marijuana oil or just nicotine.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention last week revealed that 215 possible cases of severe lung disease associated with the use of e-cigarettes have been reported in 25 US states.

Battery-powered vaping devices can be used to inhale a flavoured nicotine solution or a solution infused with marijuana oil.

Health officials in some states have also noted a number of people who fell ill after using vaped products containing THC, the compound that gives marijuana its high.

The American Vaping Association has blamed the recent spate of lung illnesses on illegal vape pens that contain THC. Wisconsin public health officials said last month that 89 per cent of the people they interviewed who fell ill reported using vaping devices to inhale THC.

However, there have also been cases where respiratory illnesses have been diagnosed with vaping products that do not contain marijuana.

Mark Pettinger, a spokesperson for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which oversees the state’s legal marijuana industry, said the investigation was in its early stages.

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If the THC oil was implicated in the death, his agency could track the product back to its origin and review all the testing results, he added.

In general, all marijuana intended for sale at a legal dispensary is tested for pesticides and potency, as well as for solvents, if the product is not dried marijuana flower.

Ron Wyden, a US senator for Oregon, has said he will introduce legislation next week to tax e-cigarettes in the same way as traditional cigarettes.

The legislation aims to reduce the appeal to teenagers who are increasingly using vaping products as an alternative to smoking.

"The products are highly addictive. They're subject to minimal safety standards and oversights, exposing users to dangerous chemicals ... and they are getting into the hands of more and more young people," Mr Wyden said.

The American Vaping Association said in a statement that vaping products are "far less harmful than smoking" and have helped people break their addiction to traditional cigarettes.

Most experts agree the aerosol in e-cigarettes is less harmful than traditional cigarette smoke because it does not contain most of the cancer-causing by-products of burning tobacco.

However, health experts say nicotine is harmful to developing brains and researchers worry that addicted teens could eventually switch from vaping to smoking.

There is also virtually no research on the long-term effects of the vaping chemicals, some of which are toxic.

Agencies contributed to this report

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