Two more deaths in New York have been attributed to vaping-related illnesses, officials announced.
The New York State Department of Health announced on Friday, Jan. 17, that a woman in her 20s living in New York City and another in her 50s died in Ontario County.
The latest deaths bring the total statewide to four deaths from vaping-related illnesses.
According to the New York State Health Department, 40 percent of high school seniors and 27 percent of all high school students statewide use e-cigarettes. High school students also use e-cigarettes at rates five times higher than adults over the age of 25.
"We will continue using every tool at our disposal until these illnesses and deaths stop. In the meantime our message on vaping remains unchanged: if you don't know what you're smoking, don't smoke it," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.
In New York, there have been 220 reports of vaping-related illnesses. Of those, 150 have been confirmed, according to state data from earlier this month. Nationally, 2,668 cases of vaping-related illnesses have been reported to the CDC, which is investigating the illnesses and deaths with the state health departments across the nation.
The Department of Health noted that e-cigarette aerosol users inhale and exhale is not harmless water vapor. Some e-liquids are advertised as nicotine-free, but this may not be true. With or without nicotine, e-cigarette aerosol is unsafe. E-cigarette aerosol can contain:
- Fine and ultrafine toxic particles that can interfere with the growth and work of the lungs and increase the risk of heart disease, lung cancer, and asthma attacks;
- Heavy metals such as lead, tin, and nickel;
- Chemicals used for flavoring such as diacetyl that can cause a serious lung disease commonly known as "popcorn lung"; and volatile organic compounds that can cause long-term health effects including cancer;
- Many of the chemicals found in cigarette smoke are also found in e-cigarette aerosol, including formaldehyde, also found in embalming fluid;
- Cadmium, used in batteries;
- Benzene, found in gasoline; and
- Toluene, an industrial solvent.
"While many people consider vaping to be a less dangerous alternative to smoking cigarettes, it is not risk-free," New York Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said. "These latest reports of pulmonary disease in people using vaping products in New York and other states are proof that more study is needed on the long-term health effects of these products."
Patients with the illness report shortness of breath and coughing as well as fevers, general fatigue, and gastrointestinal problems. The CDC reported that many are ending up on ventilators in intensive care units.
"This vaping is a public health crisis," Cuomo said last year after the first vaping-related death. "It is affecting our young people. It has been marketed to young people.
"The federal government should act. The President had talked about taking action. I don't know how many people have to die before he takes action, but the state is already taking aggressive action."
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.