Ninth person dies of vaping-related illness in US as authorities investigate mystery 'epidemic'

US authorities investigating more than 500 cases of lung disease linked to e-cigarettes 

Chris Baynes
Tuesday 24 September 2019 14:35 BST
India bans vaping after government passes emergency order

A man in his 50s has become the ninth person to die of a vaping-related illness in the US.

The victim’s death is one of more than 500 cases under investigation by American authorities amid growing concern over a mystery lung disease afflicting users of electronic cigarettes.

The man, who had underlying health conditions, is the second person in Kansas to die of a vaping-linked condition.

His death was announced on Tuesday by the state governor Laura Kelly, who said her health department was “working tirelessly with other states and organisations to gather facts on e-cigarettes and [their] effects”.

“We are coordinating a response to combat this epidemic, so that families can avoid such tragic outcomes,” she added.

There have been nine reported cases of vaping-related illnesses in Kansas, including the death of a woman in her 50s earlier this month.

There have also been deaths in California, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri and Oregon

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said last week it was aware of 530 cases of lung injuries associated with e-cigarettes. Two-thirds of users affected were aged between 18 and 34, and 16 per cent were children.

The organisation activated its emergency operations centre to coordinate an investigations into the cases. Director Robert Redfield said the CDC had “made it a priority to find out what is causing this outbreak”.

Members of US congress on the House Oversight Committee are to question the CDC’s deputy director, Anne Schuchat, about the possible causes of the outbreak and what action should be taken. Last week she warned more deaths were likely.

Experts working to identify the cause of the illnesses have said no single substance or compound has been linked to all of the cases so far.

An Australian study published on Monday found e-cigarette vapour could kill off cells with protect lungs and interfere with the immune system.

Health bodies in Britain, where 3.6 million people now use e-cigarettes, have moved to reassure vapers concerned about the outbreak in the US.

Martin Dockrell, head of tobacco control at Public Health England (PHE), said: “A full investigation is not yet available but we’ve heard reports that most of these cases were linked to people using illicit vaping fluid bought on the streets or homemade, some containing cannabis products, like THC, or synthetic cannabinoids, like Spice.

“Unlike the US, all e-cigarette products in the UK are tightly regulated for quality and safety by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and they operate the Yellow Card Scheme, encouraging vapers to report any bad experiences.”

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PHE said e-cigarettes were not ”completely risk free” but were “far less harmful than smoking tobacco,” which kills more than 77,000 people a year in the UK. It added: “There is no situation where it would be better for your health to continue smoking rather than switching completely to vaping.”

Some countries, including India and South Korea, have banned or discouraged vaping amid concerns about the US outbreak.

But Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, warned this was “irresponsible”. She said: “It seems highly unlikely that widely available nicotine containing vaping products, particularly of the type regulated in Europe, are causing these cases.

“All the evidence to date suggests that illicit marijuana vaping products (THC oils) are the cause. In particular, a compound called tocopherol acetate may be the culprit.

“Authorities who are reacting to these cases by advising no one to vape are by default sending the message to people who have quit smoking through vaping that they should return to tobacco ... which we know carries multiple risks to health.”

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