Update on the Vaping Crisis That's Already Killed Six

Vaping can have serious consequences.
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In the weeks since Sciencing last reported on the mysterious lung illness experienced by young vapers, hundreds more have fallen sick, and six have died.

Law enforcement officials are scrambling to crack down on the black market operations that many believe are responsible for distributing contaminated products. Plus, the Trump administration announced it will look to ban flavored vaping products in an effort to discourage young people from picking up the habit. But some worry that the ban won’t address the real problem of black market products, and will have some smokers who turned to vapes as the “healthier” option picking cigarettes back up again.

Even More Sickness

Concern about lung disease linked to vaping began earlier this summer, when dozens of teens in Wisconsin and Illinois wound up in the hospital with severely infected lungs. Since then, more than 450 cases have been reported in 33 U.S. states and the Virgin Islands, and doctors fear that many of those cases could have long-lasting health consequences. Additionally, six people have died across the country.

Medical professionals still aren’t sure exactly what the case of the illness and death is, but many are certain that it’s linked to unregulated vaping products, as well as the addition of bootleg THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, to vape cartridges. Public health officials in New York are looking into the possibility that a Vitamin E acetate oil found in some vaping products could be to blame, and law enforcement in Wisconsin just busted a bootleg vaping operation that was filling vape cartridges with THC product.

Laying Down the Law

The Trump administration has responded to the crisis by announcing a plan to ban vaping products that come in flavors easily marketed to young people, such as mango and bubble gum. The move comes as data shows that teen vaping is on the rise, with more than a quarter of high school students saying they’ve used the products. The ban would be aimed specifically at keeping kids away from the habit, so that the tobacco-flavored vapes aimed at adults trying to quit cigarettes could still be sold.

While many public health officials have been pushing for such action for years, they’re hoping that the administration and law enforcement officials continue to crack down on the illicit operations that could be selling contaminated products, especially those infused with THC.

Only time will tell if that happens, but one thing is clear for now: Don’t vape. The risk has always been high, since inhaling gunk into your lungs has exactly zero health benefits. But now, with severe lung disease and even death a possibility, it’s time to start getting your kicks elsewhere.

About the Author

Rachelle Dragani is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn with extensive experience covering the latest innovation and development in the world of science. Her pieces on topics including DNA sequencing, tissue engineering and stem cell advances have been featured in publications including BioTechniques: the International Journal of Life Science Methods, Popular Mechanics, Futurism and Gizmodo.