Vaping-related illnesses have claimed the lives of 12 Americans, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday.
The total number of confirmed or probable cases across the country is creeping toward 1,000, at 805.
Deaths have occurred in 10 states, with the the latest three confirmed today in Florida, Georgia and Mississippi.
The latest statistics come after Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Ned Sharpless admitted the agency ‘must do more’ to stop the deaths and teen addictions linked to vaping in his testimony before Congress Wednesday.
Vaping-linked illnesses have led to the deaths of 12 Americans in 10 states, the CDC said on Thursday. Another 805 are severely ill after using e-cigarettes, most of which contained THC
Although the outbreak of these mysterious illnesses began in the Midwest, the latest deaths have bee concentrated around the South.
One death has been reported in each Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Oregon, Georgia and Florida, and two people have died in California and Kansas each.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Wednesday it’s investigating some 1,000 possible cases of severe pneumonia-like illness traced to e-cigarette use, suggesting the 805 reported Thursday may be the tip of the iceberg.
Sharplesss said that the FDA will not ‘ban’ flavored e-cigs – but will soon finalize rules to force companies to take these products off the market until they’ve gone through and been green-lighted by the FDA’s pre-market approval process.
He added that, while most of the lung injuries are linked to THC vapes, health officials have not identified a single consistent cause between them.
CDC Deputy Director Ann Schuchat said Wednesday before Congress there will ‘probably be hundreds’ more cases.
Working with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the FDA is trying to trace the vapes that have made people sick to their sources and intend to press criminal charges against their makers – but not against users.
‘FDA is not pursuing any actions associated with personal use of any vaping products, our interest is in the suppliers,’ said Sharpless.
‘But to be clear, if we determine that someone is manufacturing or distributing illicit, adulterated vaping products that caused illness and death for personal profit, we would consider that to be a criminal act.’
This week, a major bust was made by local law enforha cement in Minnesota.
Police and health officials there seized some 77,000 illegal vape cartridges that contained THC – the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis – a haul worth an estimated $3.8 million.
Commissioner Sharpless said the second prong of the FDA’s coming enforcement actions will be to try to stem the so-called ‘teen vaping epidemic.’
Some one in four high school students have used e-cigarettes in the past month, according to the CDC’s latest figures.
The most popular flavors among under age users are fruity, mint and menthol ones, and companies like Juul Labs are facing investigations into whether their sweet flavored vapes were intentionally marketed to children and teens.
A huge stash of nearly 77,000 illegal THC vapes in colorful packaging branded ‘Dank Vapes’ (pictured) was confiscated in Minnesota Monday by law enforcement officials as US health officials warned bootleg e-cigs may be to blame for hundreds of lung illnesses
Michigan and New York have temporarily banned flavored e-cigarettes and Massachusetts has halted the sale of all e-cigarettes for the next four months. Illinois is currently legislating a flavored e-cig ban.
Sharpless was careful to clarify that the FDA soon-to-come enforcement actions, which have been backed by President Trump, will not constitute a ban on flavored e-cigarettes.
‘Rather, FDA intends to enforce existing law that limits the marketing of such products,’ he said.
‘This policy would not mean that flavored e-cigarettes could never be marketed.
‘If a company can show through an application to FDA that a specific product meets the standard set forth by Congress, then the FDA would authorize that [e-cigarette] product for sale.’
But until then, the FDA will expect e-cigarette companies to pull their products from shelves.
Sharpless said that it is the ‘FDA’s intention to soon finalize a compliance policy related to flavored [e-cigarettes],’ but did specify when ‘soon’ might be.