A third person has died from a severe form of lung disease tied to the use of an electronic vaping device, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning Friday, saying “people should consider not using e-cigarette products” while it investigates a soaring number of illnesses.
There are new clues as to what might be causing the rapid onset of potentially fatal respiratory illnesses striking some individuals who used vaping products.
FDA investigators say they’ve found vitamin E oil in cannabis samples collected nationally from some patients who fell ill after vaping. But they say more research is needed before any conclusions can be drawn.
“What we know is that there are chemicals in these vaping products, and sometimes we don’t know what they are, but they are certainly concerning and something that we need to be looking more at,” says Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan’s chief medical executive.
Michigan has become the first state to ban flavored vaping products after Khaldun declared youth vaping a public health emergency.
“Sometimes when you see the data [and] you see the science and you have to move quickly and make bold action to protect the public’s health, and that’s what our governor is doing,” she says.
On the questions that remain about the origins of the vaping-related illnesses
“We don’t know what exactly the chemicals are that are in these vaping products. We don’t know if there’s things related to timing. We don’t know if it’s the actual chemical or if it’s something related to the vaping apparatus. There’s a lot of questions that I still have about what these injuries are being caused by.”
On banning flavored e-cigarettes in Michigan
“I declared in the state a public health emergency, specifically because of the use of youth e-cigarettes. We know over the past few years that many counties actually across the state of Michigan have seen more than a doubling of the number of youth that are using e-cigarettes. We know that most of them start with a flavor, and of course, we know the nicotine particularly leads to addiction and long-term health problems. And then as we’ve discussed over the past several weeks, we’ve seen these hospitalizations.”
On responding to critics who argue adults should be allowed to make the decision not to smoke
“From a public health perspective, it’s all about protecting the public’s health. … We still are allowing vaping products to be marketed. You just will not be able to get bubble gum. And I also will say that the data about the safety of these vaping products, particularly long term, is not really clear yet. So, of course I know that a lot of adults are switching from cigarettes to vaping products that I absolutely support anyone who wants to quit smoking. But we still need to look at the data longer term on these vaping products overall.”
On the lack of information available
“Well, as we know in public health, sometimes you can’t wait 20 years for all the data to come in. You have to move quickly. … We have people who have died. This is an emergency. I talked to moms all the time who are concerned about their high school or even their middle schoolers who are vaping, and they don’t know what to do about it. We know that companies are targeting youth specifically with their advertising. So again, sometimes you have to act quickly when there’s an emergency. … You don’t always have all the data, perfect data, but this is something that we thought was very important and appropriate.
“Again, for this particular emergency rule that we are moving forward with, we are not banning vaping altogether. We are particularly banning the flavors so e-cigarettes will still be available for adults who want to use them.”
On next steps after the flavored e-cigarette ban is over in Michigan
“Our emergency rules, once they go into effect, they’ll be in effect for 180 days. And after that, we can extend them for up to an additional six months. And in the meantime, we’ll be working with our partners to look at the data, to evaluate and to move forward with permanent rules.”
On whether she’s worried kids will pivot from flavored e-cigs to standard vapes
“We know that according to recent research that 81% of youth e-cigarette users start with a flavored e-cigarette first. Part of our rules as well, we’ll also talk about advertising, fraudulent and misleading statements, making sure that no one is advertising around candy and soft drinks. So it’s about the flavors but it’s also about just the advertising arena and how these companies are advertising to our youth as well.”
This article was originally published on WBUR.org.