On Sep. 26, I blogged about the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) investigation of 530 vaping-related illnesses and nine deaths in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Washington, D.C., and 38 states. On Oct. 15, that number rose to a staggering 1,479 cases in 49 states and 33 confirmed deaths. CDC officials estimate that these numbers will continue to rise “considerably” as it continues to release updated case counts.
Reports of vaping-caused illness have become so prevalent that the CDC gave vaping-related lung disease its own name: “e-cigarette or vaping product-use associated lung injury”, or EVALI. Health officials have not yet been able to identify the cause or causes behind the outbreak. Most EVALI patients report a history of using THC-containing vaping products, which seem to be playing a major role in the outbreak. Others, however, have been hospitalized with similar symptoms after using CBD or nicotine-containing products. Because of this, the FDA is considering that there may be more than one cause of the epidemic.
As of Oct. 15, the Ohio Department of Public Health has confirmed 32 cases of EVALI in the state, with an additional 35 suspected but unconfirmed cases being investigated. No deaths have been reported, but 29 of the 32 cases required hospitalization. Most of the nation’s EVALI patients are young adults or teenagers, with a 17-year-old New York resident’s Oct. 4 death marking the youngest vaping death to-date.
Due to the high representation of young people in EVALI cases, a new Ohio law raising the minimum age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21 went into effect on Oct. 17, making it a misdemeanor to sell tobacco and vaping products to anyone who is under 21. Lawmakers hope that the increased age gap between high school students and people who can legally purchase vapes makes it more difficult for adolescents to access these dangerous products.
With the arrival of flu season, it might become even more difficult for clinicians to identify cases, as EVALI comes with strikingly similar symptoms to both the flu and pneumonia. All three diseases can present the following symptoms:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Difficulty breathing
- Unexplained weight loss
- Abdominal pain
- Chest pain
Healthcare providers are encouraged to consider that patients with these symptoms may have any or a combination of the above illnesses.
If you or a loved one became addicted to nicotine or developed lung disease as a result of using JUUL or other e-cigarette products, contact the attorneys at Murray & Murray Co., L.P.A. in Ohio to discuss your legal options today.