As the nationwide toll for vaping-related deaths hit 13 and the number of illnesses exceeded 800, state health officials said Friday that more cases have been recorded in Connecticut.
The public health department has now logged 18 incidents of vaping-related lung disease, an increase of five since the office last shared data a week ago. All of the patients have been discharged from the hospital. Half required treatment in an intensive care unit.
Health officials said four of the patients are under the age of 18; 11 are ages 18 to 34; and three are 35 and older.
“We are working with the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and other states to find out what is causing these lung injuries,” Public Health Commissioner Renée D. Coleman-Mitchell said Friday. “I am urging Connecticut residents to consider not using e-cigarette or vaping products, at least until we know more about what is making people sick.”
Coleman-Mitchell has added “unexplained vaping-related lung injuries” to Connecticut’s list of reportable diseases, emergency illnesses and health conditions, meaning health care providers are required to notify state officials of each case.
The commissioner sent the new version of the list – updated to include the vaping disease – out to more than 26,000 physicians and health care facilities Friday.
Nationally, 805 cases of the mysterious lung illness have been reported in 46 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Deaths have been recorded in 11 states, including Illinois, Oregon, Minnesota, Florida and Georgia. No deaths have been reported in Connecticut.
No single product or device has been linked to all of the cases, but all patients said they have a history of vaping. Many have reported using vaping products with tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, a psychoactive compound in marijuana, according to the CDC. State and federal health agencies are investigating. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently opened a criminal probe into the disease.
Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, fatigue, fever and abdominal pain. For some, the condition developed over the course of a few days, while for others it took weeks.
Although the Trump administration has pledged to outlaw flavored vaping products that are a draw for teens and young adults, lawmakers in Connecticut already are planning to introduce a prohibition at the state level should the federal effort stall.
Members of the legislature’s Public Health Committee have vowed to introduce a bill when the regular session begins in February.
In the meantime, Gov. Ned Lamont said this week that while he may not have the authority to impose a ban on flavored e-cigarettes by executive order, he could ask lawmakers to tackle it during a special session this fall.
Lamont is also exploring a prohibition on flavored vaping products as part of a multi-state effort to regulate e-cigarettes and recreational marijuana use. Governors in other states, including New York, Massachusetts and Michigan, have temporarily outlawed flavored vaping merchandise.
Lamont has met with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to discuss a regional effort.
“It makes no sense to pass one set of rules in New York when they can just drive across the border to Connecticut and have a different set of rules and vice versa,” Cuomo told reporters Wednesday.
If Connecticut is going to work with New York — and possibly other states — to shield youth from tobacco and vaping products, it will have to increase funding for cessation, Lamont has said. Cuomo and Lamont have agreed to meet again on Oct. 17.