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California man is seventh person to die from suspected vape-related illness

  • Author: Kayla Epstein, Lena H. Sun, The Washington Post
  • Updated: September 17, 2019
  • Published September 17, 2019

Health officials in California confirmed that another patient has died from a vaping-related illness - at least the seventh reported death associated with a national outbreak of serious lung disease related to vaping or using e-cigarettes.

The unnamed Tulare County man died from "complications related to the use of e-cigarettes," according to the county Health and Human Services Agency. The 40-year-old had been in the hospital for "several weeks" before his death, said department spokeswoman Jan Winslow. He had a history of vaping, though Winslow said officials were still investigating what products he used.

Though his death certificate would state he died due to vaping, Winslow said the man also had "some complicating illnesses" that she could not disclose to The Post.

The death was announced Monday, the same day Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, took executive action to crack down on e-cigarette use in California, where at least one other vaping-related fatality has been reported, in Los Angeles County.

Heath officials in Tulare County did not disclose the patient's age or the type of e-cigarette product this person had used. So far, the county has had three reports of pulmonary illness linked to vaping, the health department said.

The California case came a week after the death of a Kansas resident, which was believed to be the sixth such death nationwide. Health officials in Indiana, Illinois, Oregon and Minnesota have also reported fatalities from sudden-onset illnesses that officials linked to vaping.

Several of these cases have involved a middle-aged or older person.

At least 380 cases of lung illness have been reported, according to the last available tally from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All reported cases had a history of using vape pens, and most of them had reported a history of using e-cigarette products containing THC.

Patients reported symptoms of coughing, shortness of breath, fatigue, and in some instances, vomiting or diarrhea.

However, the CDC cautions that health experts do not yet know the cause of these illnesses and have not isolated a single e-cigarette product as the underlying culprit. The agency said there has been no evidence of a common infectious cause, and therefore they suspect that a form of chemical exposure has made the patients ill.

Officials have rushed to respond to a sudden rash of respiratory illnesses among otherwise healthy people who have used e-cigarettes or other vaping products. Last week, President Donald Trump announced that his administration would move to ban most e-cigarettes.

On Monday, Newsom ordered state officials to "reduce youth vaping consumption" and allocated $20 million for a campaign to raise awareness among youth.

Newsom lacks the power to ban flavored vaping products without legislative action, but he intends to work with state lawmakers to do so, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“We’ve seen a skyrocket increase in the use of these flavored products by our children,” Newsom said at a news conference. “As a father of four, this has been an issue that’s been brought to the forefront of my consciousness.”