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Federal Agencies Investigate Respiratory Illness Linked to Vaping

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are investigating reports of severe respiratory illnesses among people who have used e-cigarette products.

image of vape pens in a circle

According to a Sept. 6 updated provided by the CDC, healthcare providers in 36 states and one U.S. territory (U.S. Virgin Islands)  have reported seeing similar cases of severe respiratory illness associated with use e-cigarettes, also known as “vapes.” The process of inhaling products through e-cigarettes is also known as vaping.

No evidence of infectious diseases has been identified in these patients, therefore lung illnesses are likely associated with a chemical exposure. However, it is too early to pinpoint a single product or substance common to all cases, according to authors of articles published today in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) and the New England Journal of Medicine.

“We are committed to finding out what is making people sick,” said Robert R. Redfield, MD, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “All available information is being carefully analyzed, and these initial findings are helping us narrow the focus of our investigation and get us closer to the answers needed to save lives.”

According to the CDC investigation, patients have reported gradual onset of both respiratory (shortness of breath, cough, chest pain) and gastrointestinal (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea) symptoms. So far, more than 215 cases have been reported, including two patient deaths. Most of the cases appear to have occurred in people who have used products containing THC, though some have reported using both THC and nicotine-containing products, with a smaller number of patients reporting use of nicotine-only products.

The CDC and FDA are asking the public to exercise caution when using e-cigarette products and to not vape substances they buy from “street” sources or unlicensed vendors. Here are their additional recommendations:

  1. While this investigation is ongoing, if you are concerned about these specific health risks, consider refraining from using e-cigarette products.
  2. Regardless of the ongoing investigation, anyone who uses e-cigarette products should not buy these products off the street (e.g., e-cigarette products with THC, other cannabinoids) and should not modify e-cigarette products or add any substances to these products that are not intended by the manufacturer.
  3. Regardless of the ongoing investigation, e-cigarette products should not be used by youth, young adults, pregnant women, as well as adults who do not currently use tobacco products. If you use e-cigarette products, monitor yourself for symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath, chest pain) and promptly seek medical attention if you have concerns about your health. CDC and FDA will continue to advise and alert the public as more information becomes available.
  4. Adult smokers who are attempting to quit should use evidence-based treatments, including counseling and FDA-approved medications. If you who need help quitting tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, contact your doctor.
  5. If you are concerned about harmful effects from e-cigarette products, call your local poison control center at: 1-800-222-1222.
  6. We encourage the public to submit detailed reports of any unexpected tobacco or e-cigarette-related health or product issues to the FDA via the online Safety Reporting Portal: https://www.safetyreporting.hhs.govexternal icon.

If you or a loved one have experienced respiratory symptoms you believe to be related to a vaping product or any other legal recreational substance, you should contact The Marks Law Group at (404) 724-5039 for a no-obligation legal consultation. Our attorneys have extensive experience with product liability and serious injury cases.

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