As U.S. health officials are again urging people to stop vaping until they figure out why some are coming down with serious breathing illnesses, the Connecticut Department of Public Health announced that three more Connecticut residents have been hospitalized for severe lung disease that could be connected to vaping or electronic cigarettes, bringing the number of cases to five.
State officials said they are now investigating five cases after the patients became ill in July and August. They have all since been discharged from the hospital.
The Department of Public Health said it is collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other state health departments to investigate the cause or causes of the illnesses.
“These illnesses are very concerning because the use of e-cigarette products is increasing in our state and nationally, particularly among our youth,” DPH Commissioner Renée D. Coleman-Mitchell said in a statement. “Some people might not be aware of the health risks associated with using these products. Anyone who has used e-cigarette products and experiences respiratory issues should seek medical care promptly because illnesses can become more severe without proper treatment.”
U.S. officials on Friday said they had identified 450 possible illnesses, including at least three deaths, in 33 states. The count includes a newly reported death in Indiana.
Health officials say no single vaping device, liquid or ingredient has been tied to all the illnesses. Many of the sickened — but not all — were people who had been vaping THC, the chemical that gives marijuana its high.
A week ago, U.S. officials pegged the number at 215 possible cases in 25 states. Health officials have only been counting certain lung illnesses in which the person had vaped within three months. Most are teens.
One of the concerns for officials in Connecticut is the rising popularity of vaping among teens.
Barbara Walsh, the Tobacco Control Program supervisor for the Department of Public Health, said the explosion in e-cigarette users has caught and held their attention for months.
”We now have five identified cases that are part of the national outbreak,” she said.
While there’s no state task force solely devoted to the issue, Walsh said the state Department of Public Health is pouring resources into the problem and working with other agencies.
”We have been trying to work on messaging and stuff with the State Department of Education in order to get materials out to the schools,” she said.
Symptoms of Lung Disease from e-Cigarettes, Vaping
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
Possible Connections to Vaping, e-Cigarettes, THC
And all patients reported using e-cigarette or vapor products and many patients reported using products that contain cannabinoid products, such as tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.
Officials said the investigation has not yet identified any single substance or product that is linked to all cases.
Response from a Vape Store Owner on the Findings
Christine Mazzotta, who owns Vapor 9 in Newington, has been following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's latest investigation.
"We purchase our liquids from legit, e-liquid manufacturing facilities that are in compliance with the FDA," she said.
Mazzotta says while she supports more scientific research, she worries it may lead to more regulations of legitimate vaping businesses. She says that could lead to more cases.
"If we over-regulate and start causing flavor bans and excessive regulations beyond quality control, health concerns, we're going to create a huge black market. At that point, we do not know what people are vaping," she said.
"At no point in this game has the vaping industry ever intentionally wanted to induce harm in anyone," she added.