Health officials in the United States reported 26 deaths and 1,299 confirmed and probable cases so far from a mysterious respiratory illness tied to vaping. Just last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 1,080 cases and 18 deaths from the illness.
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The deaths were reported in 21 states, including California, Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Texas and Pennsylvania. Investigators have not linked the cases to any specific product or compound, but have pointed to vaping oils containing THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, as being especially risky.
The serious respiratory illness has prompted a health scare that has led U.S. officials to urge people to stop vaping, especially products containing THC.
Doctors studying lung tissue samples from people with vaping-related deaths or sicknesses have found that none of the cases had evidence of lipoid pneumonia, a rare diagnosis typically linked with people accidentally inhaling oils into their lungs.
However, as the outbreak picks up pace, some states, including New York, Michigan and Rhode Island, have banned the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. Massachusetts has gone a step further by imposing a four-month ban on all vaping products and a federal judge last week denied an industry bid to put the ban on hold.
Chinese e-commerce firm Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. said on Wednesday it will stop the sale of e-cigarette components in the U.S., joining retailers Kroger Co., Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc and Walmart Inc that have all stopped selling the devices.
In addition, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee has urged agencies to ban flavored and cannabis-derived vaping products.