WATERTOWN — Vaping has claimed its first life in New York state with the death of a 17-year-old male at the Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo commented on the vaping-related death earlier, which was reported to the state Department of Health today.
“We had our first death and the State Department of Health is investigating the details of it,” he said in a statement. “Parents have to know, young people have to know: You are playing with your life when you play with this stuff.”
According to DOH, the teen had been previously hospitalized in early September with a vaping-related respiratory illness and was re-admitted in late September. He died Oct. 4.
As of Oct. 8, DOH has received 110 reports from New York physicians of severe pulmonary illness among patients ranging from 14 to 69 years of age who were using at least one vape product prior to becoming ill, according to a release. Nationally, as of Oct. 1, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported more than 1,000 cases of vaping-associated illnesses, with 18 other confirmed fatalities across 15 states.
Most patients report a history of using THC-containing products, and the latest national and regional findings suggest products containing THC play a role in the outbreak of patients displaying vaping-related illnesses, according to the CDC. Approximately 70% of patients are male, with approximately 80% of all patients under the age of 35.
Following the death, Governor Cuomo stated that the federal government needed to act, citing that President Donald Trump had previously spoken of taking action and has not yet followed through.
“I don’t know how many people have to die before he takes action, but the state is already taking aggressive action,” he said. “We moved to ban flavored e-vaping, et cetera. It’s now pending in the courts.”
These comments come after the governor’s state-wide ban on flavored e-cigarettes was temporarily put on hold by the state Appellate Court to allow time for the court to consider the vaping industry’s lawsuit against the ban. The prohibition was set to cover flavored e-cigarettes and other vaping products except for menthol and tobacco flavors, with retailers facing a looming deadline to remove vape merchandise from their store shelves.
“This vaping is a public health crisis, it is affecting our young people,” Governor Cuomo said. “I can tell you as a person who was young and stupid and smoked, it is an addiction you will fight for your entire life.”
With recent legislation raising the vaping age to 21, the sale of vaping products to minors is, and always has been, illegal. Even so, vape products seem to be increasingly marketed toward youths with flavors like Sour Patch Kids and Runtz packaged in colorful boxes.
Originally marketed as a way for people to quit smoking cigarettes, e-cigarettes are now used by millions of middle and high school students, with 16% of patients displaying pulmonary complications related to vaping under 18 years old, according to the CDC.
“It is undeniable that the vaping industry is using flavored e-cigarettes to get young people hooked on potentially dangerous and deadly products,” New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said in a statement.
The governor echoed previous statements he has made about e-cigarettes by stating that they are not currently regulated and it is impossible to know the long-term effects yet due to a lack of testing.
“Worst case is you vape and it kills you,” he said. “You don’t know what vaping is, nobody studied the effects of steam in your lungs with these chemicals, and you drop dead. That’s the worst case.”
If you are concerned about your health or the health of a loved one who uses an e-cigarette product, contact your health care provider, or your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.