The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Thursday that the number of people who have died from a vaping-related illness has increased to 52, and sicknesses have been reported in every U.S. state and two U.S. territories.
A total of 2,409 people across all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, have come down with these serious lung ailments. The CDC is also investigating other deaths, in addition to the 52 confirmed to be related to e-cigarette- or vaping product-use-associated lung injury (EVALI).
Patients range in age from 13 to 77, with a median age of 24, the CDC announced. Deceased patients ranged in age from 17 to 75, with a median age of 52.
The CDC had a break in its case last month, when laboratory tests revealed that lung fluid samples taken from 29 patients all contained the oily substance vitamin E acetate, which is sometimes added to cannabis vaping oils to stretch their THC content. The agency had previously announced that THC vaping products have been tied to hundreds of cases and many of the deaths from the outbreak, and the latest finding points to why that might be the case. Still, the CDC cautions that multiple chemicals could be causing vaping-related illnesses.
“The results reinforced previous CDC recommendations to not use e-cigarette or vaping products that contain THC, particularly from informal sources like friends and family, online dealers or the illicit market,” Schuchat said on a Nov. 8 call with reporters. In an update released in December, the CDC confirmed that many people used products branded as Dank Vapes, a bootleg network of illicit cannabis products, before getting sick.
After in September announcing his intent to pull all flavored vaping products off the market, President Donald Trump appears to be considering other options. In November, he said his administration would raise the legal age of purchase to 21, seemingly bowing to pressure from pro-vaping voters and industry groups who oppose an all-out ban.
The CDC and FDA continue to urge the public not to vape at all. “It is pretty much impossible to know what is in your e-cigarette vaping product,” Schuchat said on a press call this fall. “With all the data that I’ve been seeing, I don’t know what safe is right now.”