By Madeline Farber
Published September 26, 2019
Health officials in Florida and Georgia this week announced the first vaping-linked deaths in their respective states, as officials raised the number of fatalities nationwide to 12. In an update on Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also raised the number of confirmed or probable vaping-related illnesses to 805.
The Florida Department of Health on Tuesday updated its tally of vaping-associated lung illness cases to include one death. To date, there are 27 reported cases in the state. California and Kansas have each reported two deaths, while Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi and Oregon have all reported one.
The Georgia Department of Public Health announced Wednesday that a patient with a “history of heavy nicotine vaping” died from a vaping-associated illness. The patient, who was not identified, did not report vaping THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
The Georgia Department of Health has “identified nine cases, including the death, of vaping-associated illness in Georgia, and other possible cases are being reviewed,” the statement reads, noting all hospitalized patients “developed pneumonia with no known infectious cause.”
The CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), along with state and local health agencies, are still investigating the cause of the 805 vaping-related lung illness cases reported across 46 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Across the nation, some of those sickened reported vaping products that contain THC, which causes the “high” sensation. Others reported only vaping nicotine, while some patients used both.
Health departments in some states – namely New York and Utah – are eyeing vitamin E acetate as a potential cause of illness in some residents there. Laboratory testing confirmed the substance, also known as vitamin E oil, was present in "nearly all of the cannabis-containing samples" obtained from some sickened patients in New York. Meanwhile, Utah health officials said 90 percent of the samples tested by a state laboratory contained the agent as well.
A recent Washington Post investigation concluded that the illnesses affecting hundreds of Americans may be linked to black-market vaping products, some of which are allegedly cut with vitamin E acetate. That said, federal health officials have not yet linked the illnesses to a specific product, substance or additive.
The news comes after Michigan, New York, and Rhode Island banned vaping flavors this month, while Massachusetts said it will stop sales of all vaping products for four months, the first such step in the country. President Donald Trump said last week that the federal government will act to ban thousands of flavors used in e-cigarettes across the country.