Eighth Vaping Death Reported, With 530 Illnesses

A salesman at a vape shop tries out his own wares in Maine. (AP photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

NEW YORK (AP) — More than 500 people have been diagnosed with vaping-related breathing illnesses, but the cause remains unknown, U.S. health officials said Thursday. An eighth death was reported.

The Food and Drug Administration revealed that its criminal investigations unit started tracking leads early on, as cases pointed to black market vaping products. The agency’s tobacco director, Mitch Zeller, said it is not interested in prosecuting people who use illegal products, but is lending a hand because of the unit’s “special skills.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 530 confirmed and probable cases have been reported in 38 states and one U.S. territory, up from 380 a week ago.

Missouri joined the list later Thursday, announcing the death this week of a man in his mid-40s at a St. Louis hospital.

Canada reported its first case Wednesday, a high school student who was on life support and has recovered.

All patients had used an electronic cigarette or other vaping device.

Doctors have said the illnesses resemble an inhalation injury, with the lungs apparently reacting to a caustic substance. So far, no single vaping product or ingredient has been linked to the illnesses, though most patients reported vaping THC, the intoxicating ingredient in marijuana.

The man who died in Missouri told his family he started vaping in May for chronic pain, but investigators have not yet determined if he was vaping THC, according to a spokeswoman at Mercy Hospital St. Louis.

Two-thirds of the cases involved 18- to 34-year-olds. Three-quarters are men.

Some of the first cases appeared in April. The CDC has not said when most people got sick.

A congressional subcommittee will hold a hearing on the outbreaks on Tuesday.

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for content.

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