New York governor urges halt to all vaping amid lung disease outbreak

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked the state’s Department of Health to issue guidance that will urge people to stop vaping amid concerns over a lung disease linked to electronic cigarettes that’s left hundreds ill around the country.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday the number of vaping-related illnesses jumped to at least 450 cases in 33 states and cautioned people against using e-cigarettes, especially those bought off the street. At least five deaths linked to the vaping-related respiratory illness have been reported.

Most patients experience shortness of breath, fever, cough, fatigue, nausea and vomiting. All said they’d recently vaped THC, nicotine, or a combination of the two.

“There is an investigation ongoing,” Cuomo said Saturday. “Nobody knows exactly what it is. There is some suggestion that is linked to Vitamin E, et cetera. Our health guidance is no one should be using vaping products, period, until we know what it is.”

The New York Department of Health said Thursday that it was investigating high levels of Vitamin E acetate in connection to the 38 cases reported in the state. The elevated Vitamin E levels were only found in lab tests for samples of products that contained cannabis, not nicotine.

The compound is a commonly available nutritional supplement that is not known to be harmful when taken as a vitamin or applied to skin, according to the New York State Department of Health.

New York Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker issued a health advisory regarding e-cigarettes in August when only 11 cases were reported in the state. But Zucker went a step further Saturday and urged residents to stop vaping all together.

“Heeding the warnings from CDC and at the direction of Governor Cuomo, today I am urging New Yorkers to stop using vape products while the investigation into the definitive cause of reported vaping-associated illnesses nationwide can be better determined,” Zucker said.

Zucker said that Wadsworth Center, New York State’s public health laboratory, was currently testing both cannabis and nicotine-containing vape products received from people who reported feeling ill.

The CDC has also advised people to stay away from vaping devices while investigators work to pinpoint exactly what’s behind the illnesses. The Food and Drug Administration has tested 120 product samples, and so far has been unable to identify any one brand, ingredient or substance that could explain the illnesses.

“If you’re thinking of purchasing one of these products off the street, out of the back of a car, out of a truck, in an alley, or if you’re gonna then go home and make modifications to the product itself using something that you purchased from some third party or got from a friend, think twice,” Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, said on a call with reporters.

The investigation has been hindered by the need to rely on patients’ disclosing exactly what they’d vaped, as many have reported using a variety of devices and e-liquids in the days, weeks and months before becoming ill. And some patients may be reluctant to admit using marijuana.

Doctors say anyone vaping who develops respiratory distress, including coughing, difficulty breathing and chest pain, should consult a clinician.