The Grapevine

CDC Update: 805 Vaping-Related Illnesses Reported

Lung-related illnesses caused by smoking e-cigarettes have become more widespread with a whooping 52 percent rise in  the number of cases within a week. In other words, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported a surge from 530 to 805 cases as of September 24.  

Three days later on September 27, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee called for an emergency ban on all vaping products in an executive order to the state's health department. The situation has now escalated further and has affected the whole country. In all, 46 state health departments and one union territory have shared information with the CDC.

In the latest report released by the CDC, the agency said that products with prefilled cartridges containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) have a significant part to play in the outbreak. The reason that this is a matter of concern is because THC is the main psychoactive chemical compound in marijuana found in different concentration levels that causes intoxication, although other substances have not yet been ruled out. 

Unfortunately, 12 deaths across states have been recorded thus far: two each in California and Kansas, while one death each was recorded in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri and Oregon. Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of CDC, informed the media on Sept. 27 that a complex countrywide investigation is underway to get to the bottom of the life-threatening disease affecting young people using vaping products with various substances. 

Several details were shared about 771 patients, from whom they had received age and gender-specific information: 69 percent of the patients were men, 62 percent of the patients were aged 18 to 34 years old, 22 percent were aged between 18 to 21 and 16 percent were under the age of 18. 

GettyImages-1171492223 A worker stacks boxes of e-cigarettes on the production line at First Union, one of China's leading manufacturers of vaping products, on September 25, 2019 in Shenzhen, China. Global production for e-cigarette and vaping products is centered in a five-square-mile district of Shenzhen, China, which is the focal point for roughly 90% of the industry's supply chain. Hundreds of companies in China ranging from large corporations to smaller workshops -- are vying for a part of the international market for e-cigarette and vaping products industry worth an estimated $15 billion USD. With investigations by U.S. health officials into an outbreak of vaping-related illnesses across more than 30 states, there are new concerns about product safety, health effects, and addiction among young people. China's government is drafting new standards for manufacturing, safety, and quality control. Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

The authorities are examining various substances in order to ban them. Information pertaining to substances used 30 days preceding the onset of the symptoms of 514 patients published on the CDC’s website stated that “76.9 [percent] reported using THC-containing products, and 56.8 [percent] reported using nicotine-containing products; 36.0 [percent] reported exclusive use of THC-containing products, and 16.0 [percent] reported exclusive use of nicotine-containing products.” 

The investigation is still being conducted along with the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) and local partners. Until then, the CDC recommends that people should avoid smoking e-cigarettes or vaping products with THC. 

Situation in Wisconsin and Illinois 

A coordinated inquiry between the health departments of Wisconsin and Illinois revealed data on 86 of the 127 patients. The report said that 75 (87 percent) of the 86 people used vaping products with THC and 61 (71 percent) reported smoking nicotine-containing vaping products. 

The officials looked into the packaging aspect as well. They found 96 percent used prefilled cartridges containing THC. Of which, 89 percent were received through informal sources, such as family, friends and illegals dealers. When it came to nicotine-containing products, 77 percent were bought with prefilled cartridges and 83 percent were acquired through commercial sources. 

A single brand name could not be narrowed down, except that 57 or 66 percent of the patients reporting smoking prefilled THC cartridges under a mysterious brand called Dank Vapes. Surprisingly, the Wall Street Journal reported that they found no registered company under the name Dank Vapes, although the name is visible on the outer packaging. 

It is considered to be one among many counterfeit brands that operate in this manner. Most people are unaware that the products they purchase are not legal since they are easily available online.

Other states are also keeping a close watch. On September 26, when the first death was reported in Mississippi of a person under the age of 30, the health department made a statement. “I think we are just now starting to see some of the dangerous health outcomes of vaping. There is still so much we don’t know. It’s uncharted territory,” Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said in a press release.