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September 17, 2019

Vaping-related death count now at seven

A California man is the latest victim

Addiction Vaping
vaping death lungs Robina Weermeijer/Unsplash

The number of deaths tied to vaping continues to rise as federal health officials continue investigating hundreds of severe lung illness cases linked to the habit.

A Tulare County, California man became the seventh victim, county health officials confirmed on Monday. The man suffered a severe pulmonary illness after using e-cigarettes.

Tulare County Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Haught urged residents that "any use of e-cigarettes" carries risk to the lungs and may result in death.

"Long-term effects of vaping on health are unknown," Haught said in a statement. "Anyone considering vaping should be aware of the serious potential risk associated with vaping."

The man, who was older than 40, had a history of vaping and other "complicating health issues," Tammie Wyker-Adkins, a public information officer at Tulare County Health and Human Services Agency, told the Los Angeles Times. A doctor had been treating him for several weeks for a vaping-related illness.

The news came the same day that California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order to launch a $20 million public awareness campaign aimed at educating youth, young adults and parents about the dangers of vaping nicotine and cannabis products. The campaign will run on digital and social media formats. 

Newsom also signed legislation that will impose stricter age verification requirements on tobacco products sold online or through the mail. 

"With mysterious lung illnesses and deaths on the rise, we have to educate our kids and do everything we can to tackle this crisis," Newsom said in a statement. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating 380 severe lung illness cases tied to vaping e-cigarettes or similar products containing THC, the psychoactive compound found in marijuana. 

Many – but not all – of the victims vaped marijuana products before falling ill, health officials have said. Others vaped nicotine, or used both substances.

The surge of cases last week prompted the Trump Administration to pursue a ban to remove flavored e-cigarettes, including mint and menthol products, from the marketplace. President Trump cited products' popularity with teenagers and young adults as a concern.

The CDC has not reached any definitive conclusions about the vaping products used by the patients with severe lung diseases. But it has urged residents to cease vaping until the investigation runs its course.

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