Nebraska’s first victim of a vaping-related illness has brought the national death toll to 15 people.
The state’s Department of Health and Human Services said that the victim was 65-years-old and from the Douglas County area. The person had died in May, before doctors and health agencies realized that people were developing lung illnesses from vaping, and Nebraska officials did not classify the death as such until now.
Nebraska’s epidemiologist Dr. Tom Safranek said in a statement that the state had not been tracking vaping-related illnesses until the number of those affected in the country began to dramatically rise in the the past few weeks.
“Once the problem was recognized, states quickly ramped up surveillance and found current cases, but have also discovered cases that occurred before the August outbreak,” Safranek said.
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control announced that cases of severe lung illnesses related to vaping had soared to 805. The new total, up from 530 just a week earlier, now includes reports from 46 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The 805 cases include people who used THC e-cigarettes and nicotine-based e-cigarettes.
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The previous deaths occurred in North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Kansas, Missouri, Indiana, Minnesota, California, Illinois and Oregon.
The CDC did not release additional information beyond the new numbers. The agency said during their Sept. 19 update that they still do not know what in e-cigarettes is causing the health problems, and they advised Americans to stop vaping as their investigation continues.
Of the 805 cases, the CDC has closely analyzed 373 and determined that that two-thirds of people with severe lung illnesses, or 67 percent, are 18 to 34 years old, and 16 percent are under 18. The majority, 72 percent, are male.
The CDC said that stopping teen e-cigarette use is one of their priorities.
“Any tobacco product use, including e-cigarettes, is unsafe, especially for youth,” CDC director Dr. Robert R. Redfield said in a statement. “Nicotine can harm the developing adolescent brain. We must do everything we can to reduce the use of e-cigarettes among middle and high school students to protect them from immediate lung injury and a lifetime of nicotine addiction.”
Meanwhile, the Trump administration has announced plans to ban sales of flavored e-cigarettes, and several states have enacted legislation restricting sales. Massachusetts announced Tuesday that it will prohibit sales of all e-cigarettes for four months and will “work with our medical experts to identify what is making people sick and how to better regulate these products to protect the health of our residents,” Governor Charlie Baker said.
Massachusetts’ ban is the most restrictive, though New York and Michigan are also taking steps to reduce e-cigarette use. Both states announced earlier this month that they will stop sales of flavored e-cigarettes. The city of San Francisco also said in June that they will ban all e-cigarette sales.
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