Vaping-related deaths in the United States have hit a new high. The total number of fatalities is now at 37, and cases of the illness have hit a whopping 1,888, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The outbreak has reached every state besides Alaska.
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Last week, deaths from the elusive respiratory illness tied to vaping stood at 34, and vaping-related illnesses were at 1,604. But the CDC said the number of cases seems to be slowing down. The agency still warned that it’s too early to tell if the plague has peaked.
E-cigarettes, which exploded into popularity in the last few years, have come under a blitz of public scrutiny, as vaping-related illnesses have continued to claim lives. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration called vaping illness an “epidemic” and the Trump Administration has said it would launch a federal ban on flavored e-cigarettes.
New York University researchers published the first study in October linking e-cigarettes directly to lung cancer.
Retailers around the country have stopped the sale of vaping products in the wake of the endemic. This month, Kroger joined Walmart and Rite Aid in banning e-cigarettes and related items after they sell out of their current stock.
“Kroger is discontinuing the sale of electronic nicotine delivery products, or e-cigarettes, at all store and fuel-center locations due to the mounting questions and increasingly complex regulatory environment associated,” with them, the company said in a statement, adding that it would “exit this category after selling through its current inventory.”
While medical experts have not been able to pin down a specific cause for vaping illnesses, the CDC and Food and Drug Administration said THC was present in most cases in question, “particularly those obtained off the street or from other informal sources.”
The CDC suggested people discontinue the use of vaping products altogether: “Since the specific compound or ingredient causing lung injury are not yet known, the only way to assure that you are not at risk while the investigation continues is to consider refraining from use of all e-cigarette or vaping products.”