MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The vaping sickness epidemic that’s sweeping the country has killed a Minnesotan.
The Minnesota Department of Health announced Friday the patient died last month in the hospital.
At least 32 other e-cigarette users in Minnesota have gotten sick, and as the mysterious outbreak grows, the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention is urging everyone to consider stopping vaping altogether.
The death in Minnesota is just one of only four vaping-related deaths in the entire United States.
“It is very concerning,” said Dr. Ruth Lynfield from the MDH. “Why we are seeing this now is a great question.”
The deceased person, who was older than 65, had a history of lung disease, and their fatal lung injury was related to vaping illicit THC products. Lynfield says the use of black market THC is the thread linking the cases being investigated in Minnesota — but she admits researchers don’t know the exact cause.
“We are going to see more cases,” Lynfield said.
They are now collecting and sending the illegal products to the FDA to be tested. Doctors are also looking at all the cases nationally to try and figure out what’s going on.
“Is it a particular chemical that is causing it? Is it the dose? The duration? The frequency?” she said.
It’s that uncertainty from state leaders that has those in the vaping industry pushing back.
“I think the concern is when the department of health puts out these vague warnings, saying we’re not sure what’s involved,” said Cap O’Rourke of the Midwest Vaping Coalition. “If they are pretty vague, then very few people are going to take action on them.”
O’Rourke says it’s not how people are using the devices — it’s the unregulated products they are using in them.
“Don’t buy products off the street,” O’Rourke said.
He advises only buying and using merchandise from licensed stores, like Smokeless Smoking in northeast Minneapolis.
“These are products that are regulated by the FDA right now,” he said. “Go to a store that sells vapor products, they tend to be the people who have the most experience.”
The average age of patients being treated for vaping-related illness in Minnesota is 26.
At this point, none of the cases in Minnesota have been associated with use of cannabis vaping products sold solely through the state’s medical marijuana program.
Meanwhile, the Indiana State Department of Health on Friday also announced a death due to severe lung injury linked to vaping. There were also deaths reported in Illinois and Oregon.