First patient dies amid outbreak of respiratory illness potentially linked to e-cigarette use

Just under 200 e-cigarette users across the United States have presented to hospital over the past few months with symptoms including cough, shortness of breath and fatigue.

Collection of e-cigarettes on a table

The first death related to an outbreak of severe respiratory illness in e-cigarette users has been reported by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH).

The patient was one of 193 “potential cases” across the United States who have presented to hospital between 28 June 2019 and 20 August 2019 with symptoms including cough, shortness of breath and fatigue.

Ngozi Ezike, director of the IDPH, said: “The severity of illness people are experiencing is alarming and we must get the word out that using e-cigarettes and vaping can be dangerous.”  

An ongoing investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) into the outbreak has concluded that patients with the respiratory illness were using e-cigarettes in the lead up to their hospital admission, but it has not definitively stated that the illness is caused by vaping.

Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, said: “We are saddened to hear of the first death related to the outbreak of severe lung disease in those who use e-cigarette or ‘vaping’ devices.”

“This tragic death in Illinois reinforces the serious risks associated with e-cigarette products. Vaping exposes users to many different substances for which we have little information about related harms — including flavourings, nicotine, cannabinoids, and solvents.”

Redfield added that the CDC had been warning about the identified and potential dangers of e-cigarettes and vaping since the devices first appeared and reiterated that e-cigarettes were not safe for youth, young adults, pregnant women or adults who do not currently use tobacco products.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, August 2019;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2019.20206997