Kansas re­ports first death from illness linked to vaping

The Kansas City Star - - Front Page - BY JONATHAN SHORMAN [email protected]­chi­taea­gle.com

Kansas has recorded its first death linked to a na­tion­wide out­break of va­p­in­gre­lated lung dis­ease.

The per­son had only been vaping for about two weeks be­fore fall­ing ill.

The Kansas death was the sixth na­tion­wide re­lated to the vaping illness, which has de­fied easy ex­pla­na­tion. Hun­dreds of cases have been re­ported across the coun­try, in­clud­ing six in Kansas, of which three are con­firmed.

“It cer­tainly turns up the vol­ume for us lo­cally,” said Lee Nor­man, the sec­re­tary of the Kansas Depart­ment of Health En­vi­ron­ment. His agency has urged peo­ple to stop vaping.

The per­son who died was over 50 and had un­der­ly­ing health is­sues, state epi­demi­ol­o­gist Farah Ahmed said. The per­son was hos­pi­tal­ized with rapidly pro­gress­ing symp­toms.

Nor­man said the per­son had been sta­ble and that “the only thing that changed was start­ing to vape, which was new to this per­son.”

As cases of the mys­te­ri­ous illness have be­gun to arise in Kansas, of­fi­cials have sounded in­creas­ingly alarmed about e-cig­a­rettes and vaping. Gov. Laura Kelly said in a state­ment that of­fi­cials are work­ing to de­ter­mine a cause. She urged peo­ple to be care­ful.

“Don’t put your­self in harm’s way, and please fol­low the rec­om­men­da­tions of pub­lic health of­fi­cials,” the gov­er­nor said.

Na­tion­ally, no sin­gle vaping de­vice, liq­uid or in­gre­di­ent has been tied to all the ill­nesses, of­fi­cials have said. Many of those who got sick — but not all — had been vaping THC, the chem­i­cal that gives marijuana its high. Many are teens.

Deaths re­lated to the vaping illness have been re­ported in Cal­i­for­nia, In­di­ana, Min­nesota, Illi­nois and Ore­gon. Min­nesota health of­fi­cials have said that state’s first known vaping-re­lated death was a per­son over 65 with a his­tory of lung prob­lems who had vaped il­licit THC prod­ucts and died in Au­gust.

Health of­fi­cials have only been count­ing cer­tain lung ill­nesses in peo­ple who had vaped within the last three months. Doc­tors say the ill­nesses re­sem­ble an in­hala­tion in­jury, with the body ap­par­ently re­act­ing to a caus­tic sub­stance. Symp­toms have in­cluded short­ness of breath, fatigue, chest pain and vom­it­ing.

Nor­man the­o­rized that the pro­lif­er­a­tion of ill­nesses now is re­lated to the rise of the use of CBD oil, but he cau­tioned the an­swer will only be known once the con­tents of vaping so­lu­tions are known.

“I think that prob­a­bly there’s been a lot of CBD oil used with peo­ple who wrongly think ‘Oh, gosh, CBD, if I inhale that in my lungs it’s go­ing to give me a high,’ ” Nor­man said. “And in re­al­ity what it’s do­ing is a lung full of liq­uid, aerosolize­d ma­te­rial.”

Nor­man said the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion and other reg­u­la­tory agen­cies should con­sider a mora­to­rium on the sale of vaping prod­ucts un­til the cause of the ill­nesses can be de­ter­mined.

“I think that I’d like to see our fed­eral of­fi­cials and law en­force­ment step up and say we need to pull th­ese things off the shelves un­til we know what’s go­ing on,” Nor­man said.

On Mon­day, the FDA ac­cused Juul, a lead­ing producer of vaping prod­ucts, of il­le­gally pitch­ing its prod­ucts as safer al­ter­na­tives to smok­ing. The agency also in­creased its scru­tiny of the com­pany, telling it to turn over doc­u­ments re­lated to its mar­ket­ing, ed­u­ca­tional pro­grams and nico­tine for­mula.

In Au­gust, Kansas At­tor­ney Gen­eral Derek Sch­midt, along with dozens of other at­tor­neys gen­eral, called on video stream­ing ser­vices such as Amazon, Net­flix, CBS and oth­ers to vol­un­tar­ily limit to­bacco use in their video con­tent.

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