US authorities expect hundreds more cases of vaping-related illness

Mystery lung disease has affected 530 people in 38 states as bans introduced in some areas

A man uses a vaping  device in New York. Photograph: Caroline Tompkins/The New York Times

A man uses a vaping device in New York. Photograph: Caroline Tompkins/The New York Times

 

Hundreds more Americans have been hit by a severe vaping-related illness, with the official tally set to be updated, according to US health officials

The House of Representatives began public hearings this week about the mystery lung disease that, as of last week, has affected 530 people in 38 states. The illness has also claimed the lives of nine people.

“We believe that probably hundreds more (cases) have come in since the numbers we released last week,” said Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The outbreak prompted Massachusetts on Tuesday to impose a four-month ban on sales of all vaping products, including those used for tobacco and marijuana, which is legal in the state.

The move goes further than New York state and Michigan, which earlier this month banned the sale of flavored vaping products, out of concern that those products appeal to children.

E-cigarettes, which operate by heating a liquid to form an inhalable vapor, have been popular for nearly a decade in the United States. At Tuesday’s hearing, Ms Schuchat noted that latest-generation vaping devices use “nicotine salts” that boost the amount of the addictive substance that reaches the brain, presenting a particular risk to younger consumers, whose brains are still developing.

“It feels like that’s kind of vaping on steroids,” said Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi, chairman of the subcommittee on economic and consumer policy, as he called for further investigation.

Ms Schuchat emphasised that the CDC has still not identified any specific product or compound - including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the high-inducing component of cannabis, or Vitamin E acetate - that is linked to all cases of the illness.

The CDC, which has activated its emergency operations center to co-ordinate an investigation, has advised that people quit vaping if they can.

A man over age 50 who used e-cigarettes died in Kansas as state health officials prepared to join the waves of experts testifying before Congress on Wednesday, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly announced.

“Today, I am saddened to announce the death of a second Kansan in association with this outbreak,” the governor said in a statement, noting the man had underlying medical conditions. – Reuters