Middle-Aged Person Dies In Oregon After Vaping Cannabis Product

A person in Oregon has died after vaping in what appears to be the second such death nationwide.

The Oregon Health Authority said Tuesday that a middle-aged individual died in July after suffering severe respiratory symptoms apparently linked to the use of e-cigarettes. The person consumed a cannabis-based product that was purchased from a dispensary. The agency declined to release information about the person's gender, age or location.

This death follows one in Illinois last month. Providers have also noted about 200 illnesses in 25 states associated with e-cigarette use. All of the patients suffered severe pulmonary symptoms such as difficulty breathing or chest pain, none had an infection such as pneumonia and all had used a vaping device to consume a nicotine product or a cannabis-based oil. Unlike Oregon, most of the cases nationwide involved teens and young people.

"We don’t yet know the exact cause of these illnesses — whether they’re caused by contaminants, ingredients in the liquid or something else, such as the device itself," Dr. Ann Thomas,  an Oregon public health physician, said in a statement.

The health authority has sent out an alert to clinicians, hospitals and tribal authorities, asking them to report any cases of people who've vaped within the last three months and have had to be hospitalized.

Thomas said that women who are pregnant, young people and those who don't already vape should not pick up the habit. She said anyone who does should be on the lookout for symptoms. 

"We want you to monitor yourself for symptoms, especially if you’re having coughing, respiratory distress, difficulty breathing, chest pain," Thomas said in an audio statement. The health authority wants anyone who gets sick to immediately consult a provider.

"We want the public to know that this is a real danger," Thomas said.

It's long been known that nicotine increases the heart rate and blood pressure and that smoking can cause cancer. Electronic cigarettes have been marketed as a healthier alternative but they're dangerous, too, Thomas said.

"There are still toxins," Thomas said. They include Formaldehyde and acetone, which is a known carcinogen along with metals in the aerosol such as lead, tin aluminum and cadmium.

The agency said clinicians with questions contact the state's on-call epidemiologist at 971-673-1111.

The death follows a report on e-cigarettes that was prepared for the recent legislative session by the Oregon Health Authority. The report noted that vaping has been on the rise among young people and poses a serious public health threat. It said there's strong evidence that vaping increase nicotine addiction among young people and can lead to smoking.

The health authority said that anyone trying to quit smoking or using e-cigarettes could call 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669), go to quitnow.net. The site thisisquitting.com is geared for young people. Spanish speakers can call 855-DEJELO-YA (855-335-35692), or go to quitnow.net/oregonsp.

"It's time to take a second look at this vaping or e-cigarette habit," Thomas said.

You can reach Lynne Terry at [email protected].

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