Drugs & Health Blog

Vaping-Related Illnesses and Deaths: What We Know So Far

©Shutterstock/Daria Chernobrovkina

The NIDA Blog Team

Update (January 2020): Government Regulation of E-cigarettes 

In 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) established a rule for e-cigarettes and their liquid solutions. Because e-cigarettes contain nicotine derived from tobacco, they are now subject to government regulation as tobacco products. In December 2019, the federal government raised the legal minimum age of sale of tobacco products from 18 to 21 years, and in January 2020, the FDA issued a policy on the sale of flavored vaping cartridges.

Update (November 2019): Vitamin E Acetate in E-cigarettes

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the FDA continue to investigate other possible substances contributing to vaping-related illness and deaths, CDC has identified a thickening agent—Vitamin E acetate—as a chemical of concern among people with e-cigarette or vaping associated lung injuries. They recommend that people should not use any product containing Vitamin E acetate, or any vaping products containing THC, particularly from informal sources like friends, family, or in-person and online dealers. They also warn against modifying (changing) any products purchased in stores, or using any vaping products bought on the street. The FDA is asking people, including health professionals, to report any adverse effects of vaping products. The CDC has posted an information page for consumers.

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In the past few months, thousands of people have developed serious lung illnesses after vaping (using e-cigarettes). Some people have died as a result. Most of the vaping products contained THC, the ingredient in marijuana that causes the high, but some contained only nicotine.  

As of January 14, 2020:

  • 2,668 cases of these illnesses have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The cases were reported by all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and two U.S. territories (Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands).
  • The illnesses have led to 60 deaths in 27 states and the District of Columbia.

The CDC, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and other organizations are investigating the connections between vaping and these illnesses and deaths. In the meantime, the FDA has issued these warnings:

  1. Don’t use any vaping products of any kind bought online, on the street, or from family and friends.
  2. Don’t modify (change) any vaping products purchased in stores, and don’t use THC oil.

The CDC recommends that people consider not using any e-cigarette (vaping) products—particularly products that contain THC.

So far, we know that:

  • Vaping products containing THC appear to play a major role in the outbreak. In about 82 percent of cases, the person had used a product containing THC; 34 percent reported using products that contained only THC.
  • About 57 percent had used products containing nicotine; 13 percent reported using products that contained only nicotine.
  • Read more about what we know.

There’s a lot we don’t know yet:

Vaping is already risky for teens. Tell your friends about the risks, and about the illnesses and deaths associated with vaping. As more facts come in, we’ll report them here.

Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.

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