Updated as of Thursday, Oct. 10:
On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that illnesses linked to vaping has grown by more than 200 cases in a week, now totaling 1299. Officials say that 27 people in total have died from vaping-related illnesses.
On Tuesday, Gov. Cuomo confirmed the death of a Bronx teenager, the first vaping-related death in New York. Officials believe the 17-year-old victim became sick from vaping cartridges containing THC, though the department of health is investigating further. “I don’t know how many people have to die before [President Trump] takes action,” Cuomo said at a conference, where he further condemned vaping. “You are playing with your life when you play with this stuff,” he said.
The Massachusetts Department of Health announced the state’s first vaping-related death on Monday. The department identified the victim as a Hampshire County woman in her 60s.
New Hampshire state officials report the state’s first vaping-related injury. The victim, a Sullivan County man, was hospitalized after vaping nicotine products, but has since been discharged.
On Monday, major retailers Walgreens and Kroger announced discontinuation of e-cigarette sales. Kroger will stop sales once inventory runs out at its more than 2,700 stores and 1,500 fuel centers. Walgreens currently operates over 9,500 stores nationwide.
As the nationwide death toll continues to rise, new questions emerge about what specifically is the cause, and what officials will do to limit damage and loss of life.
Death Toll Update
- As of Oct. 1, 18 deaths have been confirmed in 15 states: Alabama, California (two), Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas (two), Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, Oregon, and Virginia. The most recent death occurred in Connecticut, which officials announced Thursday, Sept. 26. Forty-six states and the U.S. Virgin Islands have reported vaping-related injuries, bringing the confirmed and probable case total to at least 805.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is currently carrying out an investigation on vaping products to determine what additives may be linked to reported cases. According to its website, “no single product or substance has been linked to all lung injury cases. More information is needed to know whether a single product, substance, brand, or method of use is responsible for the outbreak.” According to data received on 771 patients, 62% of patients are 18 to 34 years old; 22% aged 16 to 21; 16% aged younger than 18.
The number of vape-related illnesses has increased from 805 to 1,080 in just a week according to the CDC. The CDC reported on Sept. 27 that a majority of the cases are mostly related to black-market cannabis products on Sept. 27. Health officials are mostly concerned about the black market cannabis cartridges by the names Dank Vapes, Off White, TKO, and Moon Rocks. So far, the only common compound found in the cannabis vapes that correlates to these illnesses is Vitamin E acetate.
Juul CEO Resigns
- Juul CEO Kevin Burns stepped down on Sept. 25. Replacing Burns is K.C. Crosthwaite, former CEO of Philip Morris USA, the manufacturer of Marlboro cigarettes.
- In addition, Juul has suspended its print, digital, and broadcast advertising. With a 70% share of the market, this hinders the company’s growth. In 2018, Juul dominated the e-cigarette market with almost $1 billion in sales.
- Nielsen Media Research found that the sale of e-cigarettes is slowing down, but other companies have picked up some of Juul’s market share.
- While the original marketing for e-cigarettes claimed that these were a safer alternative to traditional, combustible cigarettes, they have not been assessed or regulated by the FDA.
The vaping epidemic that has affected so many lives has also impacted the local vape shops in New Paltz, NY and Kingston, NY.
Local Business Backlash
Ulster County vape shop owners experience the adverse effects of preparing for the official vape flavors ban.
Nick Reyes, cashier of three years at Smokes 4 Less in New Paltz, explains that Oct. 3 is the last day the store can sell flavored vape products. After that, they have to ship the products to their warehouse to sell them out of state. This ban could potentially prove harmful to shop owners whose business relies heavily on vaping products.
“Most of the business goes towards the glass and vaping products,” said Reyes.
Reyes, however, is not too worried about the ban, because Smokes 4 Less sells other successful products. The ban will not heavily damage business potential.
On the other hand, other local vape shops depend on the flavored cartridges for business.
Vapeology Kingston, located at 39 N. Front St., completely opposes the ban.
“I have two children — 4 and 3 — and my wife; this business is what feeds them,” Matthew Nathan, owner of Vapeology on North Front Street in Uptown Kingston said Monday, as reported by the Daily Freeman on Sept. 9.
Though the official date of the ban’s enforcement has been delayed, shop owners have already had to rid their stores of flavored vape products.
New York made news when it became the first state to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. However, official enforcement of the ban has now been halted by a state appellate court.
As of Oct. 3, a state appellate court temporarily halted Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s emergency executive action to ban all flavored vape products except for menthol. The delay results from the Vapor Technology Association suing New York State. The group wants its suit heard before a complete ban takes place.
“While the court’s ruling temporarily delays our scheduled enforcement of this ban, it will not deter us from using every tool at our disposal to address this crisis,” said health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker in a statement. “Make no mistake: this is a public health emergency that demands immediate action to help ensure the well-being of our children, and we’re confident that once the court hears our argument they will agree.”
This story was reported, written and edited by the Fall 2019 staff of The Little Rebellion