The vaping death toll has risen to 47 people across the US, new figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveal.
According to a report, released on Thursday, 2,290 people have developed EVALI (e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung illness) in every state but Alaska.
Most of the victims are male and under the age of 35, with ages of those who died ranging from 17 to 75.
Increases may have slowed, but the illnesses remain prevalent and severe.
Last month, a 17-year-old athlete had to undergo an emergency double lung transplant after vaping left his lungs so scarred he was hardly able take in any oxygen.
Two weeks ago, officials announced a breakthrough when they found that a thick, gooey substance called vitamin E acetate in an sizable number of the samples of e-cigarettes used by sick people, and now believe that a combination of the vitamin derivative and THC is a ‘strong culprit.’
The CDC announced on Thursday that 2,290 people have fallen ill in every state but Alaska and 47 people have died in 25 states (red) due to mysterious lung illnesses linked to vaping
The 47 deaths have been confirmed in 25 states, with Illinois having the highest number of vaping deaths at five.
Four deaths each have been confirmed in California and Indiana; three deaths each in Georgia, Massachusetts and Minnesota; and two deaths each confirmed in Kansas, Missouri, New York, Oregon and Tennessee.
Meanwhile, one death each has been confirmed in Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Washington, DC.
According to the CDC, about 83 percent of people who’ve fallen ill reported vaping THC, the main psychoactive component in marijuana.
By comparison, a mere 13 percent have reported exclusive use of nicotine-containing products.
Most of the illnesses have resulted from people vaping a combination of THC and nicotine, health officials say.
They add that teens and young people make up the majority of illnesses because flavored e-cigarettes were marketed towards them.
Bans have been enacted in at least five states – including Massachusetts, Montana, New York, Rhode Island and Washington – although most are currently facing legal challenges.
Vitamin E acetate was an early suspect as a cause of vaping-related illnesses after scientists in a New York laboratory discovered its presence in many samples of products used by sickened vapers.
While vitamin E is safe as a vitamin pill or to use on the skin, inhaling oily droplets of it can be harmful.
It’s sticky and stays in the lungs, so much so that Dr James Pirkle of the CDC likened it to honey.
Scientists theorized that the oil might be coating the lungs, triggering inflammation and damage.
In fact, it causes burns that have been likened to those suffered by soldiers attacked with mustard gas during World War I.
The vitamin E-derived oil was only found in samples of patients who used black market products, not in those who used legal, medical marijuana.
But officials say they’ve not singled out the oil as the only thing making patients sick.
The CDC has not changed its warning against using these illegitimate products and continues to urge Americans who don’t use e-cigarettes not to start.
Although the agency says that smokers who have switched to vaping should not return to using combustible cigarettes, the CDC also advises vaping products should ‘never be used by youths, young adults or women who are pregnant.’