There are now at least 31 known vaping illness deaths in the United States, with the most recent deaths being confirmed in Minnesota.
Minnesota Reports Three Total Deaths
Minnesota health officials announced the two latest vaping illness deaths on October 16, 2019. They represent the second and third vaping deaths in the state. The first one was reported last month by the Minnesota Department of Health.
The most recent deaths involved patients over age 50 who died in September after “complicated hospitalizations.” One reportedly vaped a number of products, including illegal THC, while the other had severe underlying conditions and vaped nicotine and other unknown products. So far, the state has had 73 probable or confirmed cases of severe lung injury associated with vaping, with 32 more cases under review.
A Vaping Illness Epidemic
The vaping illness death toll now stands at 31 nationwide. Since mid-August, when the first U.S. vaping illness death was reported in Illinois and there were about 150 known incidents of sickness and injury nationwide, the number of cases has skyrocketed to epidemic levels.
As of mid-October, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has received reports of approximately 1,300 lung injury cases associated with vaping from the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and all 49 states except Alaska. Twenty-two of these states have reported deaths, including the following:
- California (3);
- Georgia (2);
- Indiana (3);
- Kansas (2);
- Minnesota (3);
- New Jersey;
- New York;
- Oregon (2);
- Utah; and
According to the CDC, the patients typically experience such symptoms as coughing, chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, and diarrhea. All of the patients had a history of e-cigarette use or vaping, though U.S. health officials say there may be more than one cause for the outbreak of vaping illness. So far, there has been no meaningful drop in the number of new cases.
Lawmakers Responding to Crisis
The crisis has not escaped the attention of lawmakers. New York, Michigan, and Rhode Island have all banned the sale of flavored vaping products, which critics argue are designed to lure teens, who represent a significant portion of the growing vaping market. (27.5 percent of American high school students currently use e-cigarettes.)
In September, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker ordered a four-month ban on all e-cigarette sales, while Washington Gov. Jay Inslee urged state agencies last month to ban flavored and cannabis-derived vaping products. Recently, U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi announced the introduction of legislation that would cap e-cigarette nicotine concentrations at 20 milligrams per milliliter or “any lower level deemed minimally addictive or non-addictive by the FDA.”
Manufacturers and retailers have also taken note. Juul Labs, the industry leader that controls about 75 percent of the domestic vaping market, recently pulled a $100 million ad campaign and said it would not fight a proposed Trump administration plan to halt the sale of fruit- and candy-flavored e-cigarettes until they win approval from the Food and Drug Administration. Kroger, Walgreens, and Walmart have also announced that they would stop selling e-cigarettes at their stores.