On Monday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said people who died due to lung injury caused by vaping often used products that contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive substance in cannabis.
Health officials said among all vaping-related deaths, 63 percent reported using products containing THC, with a median age 45. The oldest death was 75, and the youngest 17.
Overall, there have been 46 vaping-related deaths so far in the United States. The CDC said there have been 1,604 lung injury cases related to e-cigs in 49 states as of October 22.
The health agency said most patients were young and white males, with more than 80 percent of them under 35.
CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said, “It is evident from today’s report that these lung injuries are disproportionately affecting young people. As CDC receives additional data, a more defined picture of those impacted is taking shape. These new insights can help bring us a step closer to identifying the cause or causes of this outbreak.”
According to previous CDC reports, there have been patients who used THC-containing products. Among 867 patients with lung injury, 86 percent reported using vaping products containing THC.
CDC’s Principal Deputy Director Dr. Anne Schuchat said, “The data do continue to point towards THC-containing products. But I’d like to stress that we don’t know what the risky material or substance is. THC may be a marker for a way that cartridges were prepared or way that the devices are producing harm.”
However, Mitch Zeller, Director of the Center for Tobacco Products at the Food and Drug Administration, said that the data completely rely on self-reports, which could be unreliable. He said, “It’s the person saying, ‘I only used the nicotine-containing products.’”
Zeller added, “Some of these reports may come from teens or people in states where products like THC are illegal.”
Additionally, the new data reported that some patients were not aware of the substances they vaped, “and methods used to collect substance use data varied across states.”
The CDC recommends avoiding e-cigarettes or vaping products that contain THC because the exact cause or substance causing illness or death is still unclear.
“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 and vaping products,” said the CDC. “Adults addicted to nicotine using e-cigarettes should weigh all risks and benefits, and consider utilizing FDA approved nicotine replacement therapies. They should not turn to or resume using combustible tobacco. There is no safe tobacco product,” added the health agency.