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September 13, 2019

Pennsylvania has at least 17 vaping-related lung disease cases

State health officials are investigating another 30 cases

Addiction Vaping
vaping death lungs Robina Weermeijer/Unsplash

Pennsylvania health secretary Dr. Rachel Levine is urging residents to refrain from vaping – particularly any unregulated marijuana products.

"One of the largest concerns with vaping is that we do not know many of the chemicals and additives contained in the products," Levine said in a statement issued Thursday.

Pennsylvania has 17 patients hospitalized with cases of severe lung disease believed to be linked to vaping, health officials said. Another 30 cases are being investigated.

Initial findings indicate that many of the patients have vaped products containing recreational marijuana – illegal in Pennsylvania – and other unregulated products with THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana.

None of the cases have been associated with medical marijuana purchased at a state dispensary.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working with health officials across the country, including in Pennsylvania, to investigate hundreds of lung illnesses tied to vaping.

On Thursday, the CDC reported 380 confirmed or probable cases from 36 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. That figure is down from the 450 reported last week, when the CDC was still including possible cases in the total.

Six deaths have been confirmed.

The classification process requires a review of medical records and a discussion with healthcare providers. The CDC anticipates the case total increasing as additional cases are classified.

A confirmed case includes patients who developed a breathing illness after recently vaping an e-cigarette or similar product. Medical tests must not have revealed an infection.

Probable cases have a slight difference – some tests have been performed to rule out an infection.

Possible cases are those still under investigation at the state level.

The surge of cases prompted the Trump Administration to pursue a ban to remove flavored e-cigarettes, including mint and menthol products, from the marketplace.

The CDC has not reached any definitive conclusions about the vaping products used in lung disease cases. Many patients reported vaping products containing THC. But others vaped nicotine in e-cigarettes, or used both.

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