Local News

NC death linked to e-cigarettes reported in Greensboro

Posted September 26, 2019 1:30 p.m. EDT
Updated September 26, 2019 7:09 p.m. EDT

— What could be North Carolina's first death linked to e-cigarettes has been reported in Greensboro.

Cone Health officials said a patient died Wednesday at Moses Cone Hospital. No other details about the case were released.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said the patient was a Virginia resident, and state public health officials are working with the Virginia Department of Health to determine if the death meets guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be classified as a vaping death.

Nationwide, a dozen people have died and hundreds more suffer from lung ailments because of vaping.

The DHHS has begun weekly tracking of illnesses tied to e-cigarette use, and 40 such cases were reported as of Thursday.

Patients range in age from 16 to 72 and have experienced severe respiratory symptoms, including cough and shortness of breath, as well as fever, fatigue, chest pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, officials said. Most cases have been hospitalized and have required respiratory support.

Dr. Ned Sharpless, commissioner of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, told Congress on Wednesday that the agency "should have acted sooner" to regulate e-cigarettes and is finalizing a policy to crack down on the flavored liquids used in many vaping products.

Some states have already taken steps to address the problem.

The governor of Massachusetts issued an executive order this week banning the sales of all e-cigarettes and vaping products for four months while researchers figure out what's causing the illnesses and deaths.

Rhode Island's governor issued a temporary ban on flavored vaping products on Wednesday, and Michigan and Los Angeles have also banned flavored e-cigarettes.

North Carolina lawmakers likely wouldn't address a ban in this state until next year, according to Pat Ryan, spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger.

"This is a complex health issue with new data coming in every day, and it’s not something that could be appropriately addressed in the next week or two," Ryan said in an email to WRAL News.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Gov. Roy Cooper said state officials are looking closely at the issue.

"Vaping raises a number of serious concerns, particularly as it relates to young people. The Governor's Office and Department of Health and Human Services professionals are weighing the state's options," spokesman Ford Porter said in an email.

Attorney General Josh Stein has sued Juul Labs and other e-cigarette makers in recent months, alleging they illegally market their products to youths. He said he was troubled to learn of a possible death in North Carolina from vaping.

"Too many people are getting sick and dying from vaping. Too many kids are getting addicted to e-cigs," Stein said in a statement. "Today’s news only strengthens my resolve to continue my work to keep e-cigarette companies from targeting young people. We cannot allow an entire generation of kids to be e-cigarette guinea pigs."

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