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Massachusetts vaping illness reports continue to rise as some questions remain

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BOSTON (October 23, 2019)— The Department of Public Health has reported 17 additional cases of vaping-associated lung injury— now totaling 46 cases, 16 confirmed and 30 probable—to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Today, DPH also rolled out a new online dashboard that includes information on vaping cases reported to the CDC that will be updated every Wednesday by noon.

To date, DPH has received 184 reports from clinicians of suspected vaping-associated lung injury. Of those 184 reports, 46 cases, both confirmed and probable, were reported to the CDC.

Of the 46 cases reported to the CDC, 27 of the patients were female and 19 were male. Forty of the patients were hospitalized as a result of their illness. One patient, a woman in her 60s from Hampshire County, was the state’s first death from vaping-associated lung injury, which DPH previously reported.

With regard to age, 21 cases were under age 30. Fourteen were between the ages of 30 and 49. Eleven were age 50 or above.

Of the 46 cases reported to the CDC, 19 reported vaping only tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), an ingredient found in marijuana. Twelve reported vaping THC and nicotine. Eleven reported vaping nicotine only. Fewer than five reported vaping CBD and fewer than five the substance was unknown.

According to the latest CDC guidance, because the specific cause or causes of vaping-associated lung injury are not yet known, the only way to assure that people are not at risk while the investigation continues is to refrain from using all e-cigarette and vaping products.

With the number of suspect cases growing statewide and nationally, Governor Charlie Baker on September 24th announced a public health emergency and a four-month statewide ban on sales of all vaping products in Massachusetts. The sales ban applies to all on-line and retail vaping devices and products, including those containing nicotine or cannabis.

As a result of Massachusetts’ public health emergency, the Commonwealth implemented a statewide standing order for nicotine replacement products that allows people to access products like gum and patches as a covered benefit through their insurance without requiring an individual prescription, similar to what the Baker Administration did to increase access to naloxone, the opioid antidote. Individuals who are vaping are encouraged to call the Massachusetts Smokers’ Helpline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit makingsmokinghistory.org or Mass.gov/QuitVaping to connect to treatment.

Also, Massachusetts recently relaunched two public awareness campaigns, “Different Products, Same Danger” and “The New Look of Nicotine Addiction” to educate parents and middle and high school-aged youth about the dangers of vaping; the campaigns are appearing on social media channels and billboards statewide. More information on both campaigns is available at getoutraged.org. Materials are also available for download on the Massachusetts Health Promotion Clearinghouse website.

As of October 15, 2019, 1,479 lung injury cases associated with the use of e-cigarette, or vaping, products have been reported to CDC from 49 states (all except Alaska), the District of Columbia, and 1 U.S. territory.

Thirty-three deaths have been confirmed in 24 states.

All patients have reported a history of using e-cigarette, or vaping, products.

We do know that THC is present in most of the samples tested by FDA to date, and most patients report a history of using THC-containing products.

The latest national and state findings suggest products containing THC, particularly those obtained off the street or from other informal sources (e.g. friends, family members, illicit dealers), are linked to most of the cases and play a major role in the outbreak.

As such, the CDC recommends that you should not use e-cigarette, or vaping, products that contain THC.

CDC also states that since the specific causes or causes of 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

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