Severe lung illnesses linked to vaping have claimed the lives of 34 people in the US, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released Thursday.
A total of 1,604 cases of the condition officials have dubbed ‘EVALI,’ for e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung illness, have been confirmed, with patients in every state but Alaska.
Most of the victims are young adults or teenagers, though the range of ages spans from 17 to 75.
One fatality has now been confirmed in each Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Virginia.
There have been two deaths in Georgia, Illinois, Kansas and Oregon and three in each California, Indiana and Minnesota.
Officials from the CDC, FDA and state health departments are still racing to identify what, exactly, about e-cigarettes is making people deathly ill but, as most victims reported using THC vapes, experts have warned against using these products.
A total of 34 deaths from vaping-related illness have been reported in 24 US states (red) in the US. Every state but Alaska has confirmed at least one of the 1,604 cases of lung damage
The agency is scheduled reveal further details on its investigation on Friday.
Health officials have homed their investigation in on THC pods believed to be behind the majority of the illnesses, but warn that they cannot yet rule out nicotine as a cause of the spate of illnesses.
Several states, including New York, Oregon and Michigan, Washington, Utah, Montana and Rhode Island have attempted to ban flavored e-cigarettes and Massachusetts put a temporary ban on the sale of all vapes.
But many of these moves face legal challenges, including in New York, where a court has blocked the state’s ban.
On the federal level, President Trump said that his administration wanted to pull flavored e-cigarettes – which are widely blamed for getting young people who have never before smoked – from the market nationwide.
But then the President seemed to curb his previous statement, instead tweeting that we need to get counterfeits off the market.
Counterfeit or bootleg e-cigarettes that officials believe have been adulterated to contain THC have become the prime suspects in the search for the culprit of the this year’s vaping illness epidemic.
Some 76 percent of EVALI patients have said they used e-cigarettes containing THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
But many of these are made by bootleggers
Last week, the CDC went a step further, recommending that ‘people refrain from using e-cigarettes, or vaping, products that contain nicotine.’
It’s also urged that no one should use vaping products that contain THC, which were used by 76 percent of those who developed lung illnesses.
Investigators continue to search for an explanation of what about and how e-cigarettes are triggering life-threatening lung damage.
Recent analysis of the lung tissue of people with EVALI suggested that toxic chemicals released when e-liquids are heated may be damaging lungs.
Others have theorized that oils, including the glycerin base used in many vaping products or vitamin E acetate may be triggering inflammation and injury.
In the meantime, officials say that people using nicotine e-cigarettes as quit aids should not go back to smoking combustible cigarette, but are particularly warning young people and pregnant women against vaping.
In an effort to stem illnesses and deaths, states including Washington, Rhode Island and New York are implementing bans on flavored e-cigarettes thought to entice youth and teenagers.
Massachusetts has gone a step further and banned the sale of all e-cigarettes.
A judge overturned Michigan’s attempt to ban flavored e-cigarettes on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, a Florida woman filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Juul, claiming that her son, Daniel Wakefield, had died at age 18 after using the companies popular products.
A number of other individuals, cities and states have sued the company for deceptive marketing that they claim got teens and youth hooked on Juuling.