Cases of vape-related lung damage rise to at least 149

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Wednesday that there are 149 possible cases of severe lung disease linked to vaping in 15 states: California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.

The only thing linking the cases is that the patients all reported using vaping products that contain either nicotine or THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

In addition to the cases reported by the CDC, NBC News reached out to state health departments and physicians nationwide, and found cases in Ohio, Virginia and Tennessee.

“One patient came in with full respiratory collapse and essentially had to be on life support,” said Dr. Jacob Kaslow, a pediatric pulmonary fellow at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville.

Kaslow told NBC News that his hospital has treated four cases of vaping-related respiratory illness over the past six months. Tracking the cases has been tricky, as patients tend to have a variety of symptoms, including severe pneumonia and coughing up blood.

“We’re only discovering this now because we’re asking, ‘is there any history of vaping or electronic cigarette use?'” said Kaslow.

No deaths have been reported. But some patients have developed severe, progressive lung disease, and have required ongoing mechanical breathing assistance.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working with states to try to pinpoint an e-cigarette ingredient, e-liquid, device or purchase method linking all of the cases.

It’s unclear whether there was some kind of contamination of the devices or e-liquids that led to the 149-plus cases.

Some patients reported buying their vapes off the street.

“The evidence continues to point to street-bought vaping cartridges containing THC or synthetic drugs as being the cause of these illnesses,” Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, wrote in a statement to NBC News.

The American Vaping Association is not a trade group, but does advocate for what Conley calls “sensible regulation” of vaping products.

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