Vaping Health Crisis Grows To 26 Deaths, Nearly 1,300 Cases Of Lung Injury

As the death toll rises, health officials suspect products containing THC are a major factor.

As an outbreak of illnesses and deaths associated with the use of e-cigarettes steadily grows across the nation, the health crisis shows no signs of slowing down.

New data released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that as of Tuesday, there were 1,299 reported cases of lung injury in 49 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. Virgin Islands, in addition to 26 confirmed deaths in 21 states.

All patients have a history of vaping, and a majority used products containing tetrahydrocannabinol, otherwise known as THC, the marijuana ingredient that creates a high. State and national findings appear to indicate that products bought on the street or from family, friends, dealers or other informal sources “are linked to most of the cases and play a major role in the outbreak,” the CDC said in its latest report.

However, at present, health officials remain unable to identify a single product as the culprit across all cases, and “many different substances and product sources are still under investigation.”

Certain patients used only products containing nicotine, meaning the CDC cannot rule out the possibility that such products are playing a role in the illnesses.

Last week, The New England Journal of Medicine published a study by a team of Mayo Clinic doctors who suspect that noxious chemical fumes are behind the outbreak as patients’ conditions have parallels to those who have been exposed to toxic agents and poisonous gases.

“We were not surprised by what we found, regarding toxicity,” said Dr. Larsen, the study’s senior author, in a statement. “We have seen a handful of cases, scattered individual cases, over the past two years where we’ve observed the same thing, and now we are seeing a sudden spike in cases.”

States including Michigan and New York have instated temporary bans on the sale of flavored vaping products, while Massachusetts took its temporary ban a step further, prohibiting both flavored and non-flavored items, in addition to any containing marijuana and THC.

Oregon is set to implement its own temporary ban on flavored products next week.

On Monday, Walgreens and Kroger announced that their stores would remove e-cigarettes from the shelves, following Walmart’s decision to do the same last month over “regulatory complexity and uncertainty.”