Sixty people have died in the outbreak of vaping-linked lung illnesses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Thursday.
Deaths have been reported in 27 states, but no new states have been added to the list of locations with fatalities.
Officials note that they are still investigating additional deaths, so the toll will likely continue to climb.
The number of illnesses also continues to swell, but in the last week, only 66 additional cases were reported, suggesting an encouraging slow-down in additional diagnoses.
Meanwhile, New Jersey lawmakers have passed a bill to ban flavored e-cigarettes, which Governor Phil Murphy has until January 21 to sign and teenagers and their parents have taken to TikTok to post videos of themselves destroying e-cigarettes.
As of Thursday, 2,668 people have been hospitalized with lung illnesses linked to e-cigarettes in every US state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Most of the victims are male and under the age of 35, with ages of those who died ranging from 15 to 75.
However, last week, Texas officials reported the death of a 15-year-old there. If the death is verified by the CDC, that will be the youngest victim of what health experts have dubbed EVALI to-date.
The 60 deaths have been confirmed in 27 states and DC, with Georgia, Illinois and Indiana having the highest number of vaping deaths at five each, as of last week’s update, though the new numbers don’t specify specific death tolls per state.
Four deaths each have been confirmed in California; three deaths each in Massachusetts and Minnesota; and two deaths each confirmed in Florida, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Oregon and Tennessee.
Meanwhile, at least one death each has been confirmed in Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Washington, DC.
According to the CDC, about 83 percent of people who’ve fallen ill reported vaping THC, the main psychoactive component in marijuana.
By comparison, a mere 13 percent have reported exclusive use of nicotine-containing products.
CDC officials say there are ‘confident’ that vitamin E acetate, a diluting agent used in many THC vaping products, is behind the illnesses.
It was detected in 48 of 51 samples of tissues of patients with – what is being called – EVALI (e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung illness).
‘This is a serious clinical condition affecting young people across the country and it’s completely preventable,’ Dr Anne Schuchat, CDC principal deputy director, said in a press briefing last month.
‘It is clear that the outbreak represents a new phenomenon and not a recognition of a common syndrome that had evaded our attention.’
While vitamin E is safe as a vitamin pill or to use on the skin, inhaling oily droplets of it can be harmful.
It’s sticky and stays in the lungs, so much so that Dr James Pirkle of the CDC likened it to honey.
Scientists theorized that the oil might be coating the lungs, triggering inflammation and damage.
In fact, it causes burns that have been likened to those suffered by soldiers attacked with mustard gas during World War I.
Last week, the US Food and Drug Administration’s announced a ban on most flavored e-cigarettes in an effort to curb the rise of youth vaping.
Only two flavors, menthol and tobacco, are being sold in stores.
The CDC has not changed its warning against using these illegitimate products and continues to urge Americans who don’t use e-cigarettes not to start.
Although the agency says that smokers who have switched to vaping should not return to using combustible cigarettes, the CDC also advises vaping products should ‘never be used by youths, young adults or women who are pregnant.’