NJ woman dies from vaping, dozens more ill, health officials say
A woman from North Jersey has died from a vaping-related illness, health officials said Tuesday.
This is the state's first death connected to e-cigarettes, a smoking alternative now in the cross-hairs of regulators and lawmakers seeking to increase regulations and even ban it.
The woman's death was reported in August but the probable connection to vaping had not been confirmed until recently. Authorities did not release her name.
The state Health Department is investigating 32 reports of severe lung illnesses among people, mostly male, between the ages of 15 and 51. Officials have already confirmed 12 cases of serious lung disease tied to vaping and are looking at another probable case.
The total number of confirmed and probable cases of serious lung disease in the state has risen to 14—including two probable cases. One of the probable cases is the death being reported today. NJDOH categorizes cases based on CDC case definitions.
Gov. Phil Murphy created an Electronic Smoking Device Task Force on Sept. 12 following news reports of deaths and hospitalizations across the country. During an hours-long meeting of the task force last week, participants debated the merits of banning flavored vape cartridges, with proponents saying that flavors encourage children and teens to vape, while opponents cautioned that a ban would drive flavored vape cartridges underground.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been 805 lung injury cases reported from 46 states and a U.S. territory. With New Jersey, 11 states have recorded 13 deaths.
Authorities have not identified the brands or manufacturers tied to the illnesses and deaths, or whether the devices or materials were purchased at legitimate vape shops or on the black market. The CDC has said that no single product has been tied to all injuries.
Health officials also do not know which chemicals are causing the injuries.
The CDC recommends that people refrain from vaping, especially vape products that contain THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana.
New Jersey health officials, however, have said that no injuries in this state have been tied to vape products sold at marijuana dispensaries.
E-cigarettes and vape pens work by heating a liquid or gel that often contains nicotine. The aerosolized vapor is inhaled by the user.
U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., has called for a moratorium on sales of all vaping products until more information is learned.
Massachusetts last week banned the sale of vaping products. The state's vape shop owners are challenging the ban in federal court.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.