Illinois patient’s death may be first in US tied to vaping

By Don Babwin and Mike Stobbe, Associated Press

Health officials say an Illinois patient who contracted lung disease after vaping has died and that they consider it the first death in the United States linked to the smoking alternative.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) said the adult patient was admitted to hospital after falling ill following vaping, though it did not give other information about the person, including the patient’s name, age, hometown or date of death.

The state received the report of the death on Thursday, said Dr Jennifer Layden, the Illinois agency’s chief medical officer.

Officials with the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said that 193 people in 22 states have contracted severe respiratory illnesses after vaping.

However, they said a clear-cut common cause of the illnesses has not been identified and that they are being called “potential cases” that are still under investigation.

All of those affected have been teenagers or adults who had used an electronic cigarette or some other kind of vaping device.

Doctors say the illnesses resemble an inhalation injury, with the lungs apparently reacting to a caustic substance. So far, infectious diseases have been ruled out.

The illnesses have been reported since late June, but the total count has risen quickly in the past week.

That may be partly because cases that were not initially being linked to vaping have begun to be grouped that way.

Among the newest reports are two in Connecticut, four in Iowa and six in Ohio. Health officials are asking doctors and hospitals to tell state health officials about any possible vaping-related lung disease cases they encounter.

In its news release, the Illinois agency said the number of people who contracted a respiratory illness after vaping had doubled in the past week, to 22.

“The severity of illness people are experiencing is alarming and we must get the word out that using e-cigarettes and vaping can be dangerous,” IDPH Director Dr Ngozi Ezike said in the release.

Electronic cigarettes have been described as a less dangerous alternative to regular cigarettes, but health officials have been worried about children using them.

Most of the concern has focused on nicotine, which health officials say is harmful to developing brains and might make youngsters more likely to take up cigarettes.

But some vaping products have been found to contain other potentially harmful substances, including flavouring chemicals and oils used for vaping marijuana, experts say.

A number of the people who got sick had vaped products containing THC, the high-inducing ingredient in marijuana. CDC officials said they do not have a breakdown of how many of the sick people vaped THC.