SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – The Utah Department of Health is looking into 35 confirmed vaping-related lung disease cases and 12 more that may be related. Health officials say there are 47 cases in our state alone that may be related to vaping nicotine or THC.
“We urge people to avoid vaping because we don’t know what is causing this outbreak of cases, says Utah Department of Health Epidemiologist Keegan McCaffrey. “94 percent [of those cases] have been hospitalized. And so, many of these cases have been very sick. Some have had to go on ventilators or be intubated, so having machines help them breathe. Many have been hospitalized for multiple days, so really severe illness and that’s been unusual because we’ve seen these all in the last couple of months.”
So far health officials say six people in California, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, and Oregon, died from a vaping.
Here in Utah, all 35 confirmed cases the state is looking into involves someone who vapes nicotine, THC, or both.
“Because of the finding of vitamin E acetate we are saying really specifically saying don’t vape THC cartridges and don’t buy them off the street,” said McCaffrey.
Vitamin E Acetate is an oily substance commonly found things like lotion but recently health officials found in vape cartridges.
“These are new products. We don’t understand what the longterm health effects are and they aren’t consistently regulated,” he adds.
That’s why Senator Mitt Romney tweeted the FDA stating it “should consider recalling e-cigarettes as it continues to investigate recent deaths and illnesses related to vaping. I’m increasingly concerned that a generation of young people has been deceived into thinking e-cigarettes are safe.”
District 13’s Republican representative Paul Ray agrees.
“If this were any other kind of a drug or food, it would have already been recalled,” said Rep. Ray.
He’s looking at introducing stronger bills during the next legislative session.
Some of the options include:
- An all-out ban on vaping
- Ban on flavors – dependent on CDC findings
- Use vaping only as a substitute for cigarettes with an approved FDA device and prescription. He admits vaping is not approved by the FDA
“Since 2014, we’ve been saying there is going to be major issues coming down the road to people and just been ignored to this point,” he said. “It’s funny because vaping was the way to get off of smoking, but now you have to find a way to get off vaping because it is actually killing people at a faster rate than smoking did.”
Now the state representative said he has proof illegal substances are in vape cartridges and juices. He says a man with six weeks of probation left recently failed a drug test due to vaping.
“This was a good person who has not been doing anything. The opioids is [sic] that came up in his system. Tested the vape juice, there are opioids in the vape juice. So, what I asked is I asked a laboratory to go out and purchase samples from different stores across the Salt Lake Valley,” said Rep. Ray.
He wanted different brands from different stores to test.
“They pulled 17 samples off the shelves. Purchased those…took them back… out of the 17, 12 of those contained opioid traces,” said Rep. Ray. “So they were able to detect opioids in the vape juice you’re buying off the shelf. There are also I think three that had barbiturates, a couple had PCP and there were a few that had THC in them.”
He added, “What you’re buying off the shelf, and I’ve heard the industry say ‘it’s the black market guys,’ I’m going to call BS on that because these were legitimate shops across the valley that were doing that. So, I think it is an industry altogether that we have a big issue with.”
Representative Ray said the DEA is involved in his investigation. He tells ABC4’s Jason Nguyen he’ll release his findings Wednesday in a press conference.
Stay with ABC4 News as this story continues to develop.