Kansas health officials confirmed Tuesday the first vaping-related death in the state, pushing the nationwide toll to six as health experts sound the alarm over an outbreak of lung disease linked to the popular pastime.
The latest fatality was a man over the age of 50 who “had a history of underlying health issues and was hospitalized with symptoms that progressed rapidly,” the state’s Department of Health and Environment said in a press release. Officials are not sure of the exact vaping products the man used.
“It is time to stop vaping,” Kansas state health officer Dr. Lee Norman said in the release. “If you or a loved one is vaping, please stop.”
Though a national investigation into the series of deadly illnesses has not yet identified any particular vaping or e-cigarette products connected to all cases, many patients suffering illnesses report using ones containing cannabinoid products such as THC, the marijuana ingredient that creates a high.
The morning the Kansas death was announced, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched a $160 million program to ban all flavored e-cigarettes and stop vaping companies like Juul from advertising their products to minors.
The three-year initiative, titled “Protect Kids: Fight Flavored E-Cigarettes,” will be helmed by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a Washington-based nonprofit combatting tobacco use.
In a joint New York Times op-ed, Bloomberg and Matt Meyers, the organization’s president, called vaping “an urgent health crisis,” warning that companies promoting the habit are using “flavorings, unfounded health claims and the hiring of celebrity promoters,” the same tactics used by big tobacco.
On Friday, federal health officials announced as part of their investigation with state and local health departments around the country that more than 450 cases of possible lung illness spanning 33 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands have been linked to e-cigarette products.
In addition to Kansas, vaping deaths have occurred in California, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Oregon.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of lung disease reported by some patients in the outbreak include shortness of breath, coughing, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, fever or weight loss.
Certain patients have said the signs developed over the course of a few days, while others said it took several weeks.