ATLANTA (CBSMiami) – Health officials are urging the public to stop using e-cigarettes as they continue to investigate an outbreak of respiratory illnesses and deaths linked to vaping.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it’s identified 450 cases of severe pulmonary disease linked to vaping in 33 states. There have also been at least five deaths associated with vape use.
On Friday, Indiana’s health department confirmed that state’s first vaping-linked death.
“This is a tragedy for the family involved and a great concern for us at ISHD,” said Pam Pontones, the Deputy State Health Commissioner and State Epidemiologist for the Indiana State Department.
Most cases involve otherwise healthy young people like Piper Johnson of Colorado, who was hospitalized with a vaping-related lung illness in August.
“Had I waited 36 hours longer I probably would have died or been put on a ventilator,” said Piper Johnson. “All this stuff I’ve been doing these past two years that I thought were harmless, have silently been killing me.”
Many of the patients sickened said they used marijuana vaping products containing THC.
“I’m 18-years-old. My lungs are like a 70-year-old’s,” said patient Adam Hergenreder.
Health investigators are focusing on a chemical derived from vitamin E oil in samples of marijuana vaping products. But they said much more testing is needed to determine what’s making people sick.
Gregory Conley, the president of the American Vaping Association, said in a statement that “the CDC is playing politics with peoples’ health by not issuing clear and specific warnings about avoiding vaping illegal marijuana oil products.”
He made a distinction between street vapes and store products and said adult users shouldn’t be scared off using store bought products to quit smoking.
Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, said the FDA is analyzing samples. He warned vape-users to be careful where they get their products.
“If you’re thinking of purchasing one of these products off the street, out of the back of a car, out of a trunk, in an alley… think twice,” he said.