First vaping related death reported in Tennessee


The Tennessee Department of Health and the Metro Public Health Department announced Thursday the first electronic-cigarette related death in the state, after a Nashville man suffered a serious respiratory disease associated with vaping devices and later died.

MPHD officials are working with the TDH to investigate the man’s death, and no additional information has been released regarding the victim.

‘’We are extremely saddened by this loss of life and extend our sincere condolences to the patient’s family,‘’ said Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey. ‘’We are working with partners across the country to investigate these cases of vaping-associated illness in Tennessee, and recommend Tennesseans consider refraining from using e-cigarettes or vaping while this investigation is underway.‘’

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Food and Drug Administration have been investigating a “cluster of severe pulmonary disease among people who use e-cigarettes or vape,” according to TDH, already with 1,299 cases reported as of Oct. 8 in 49 states, the District of Columbia and one U.S. territory.

There have been 26 total deaths reportedly related to vaping nationwide.

According to TDH, there have been 53 cases reported in Tennessee, with most of the patients being adolescents and young adults. 49 of these cases were reported as “serious lung injury,” according to the MPHD, and six of those were Davidson County cases.

“Nashville’s first death and reports of severe pulmonary illnesses outbreaks associated with vaping nationwide should be a warning about the risks of severe lung injury from using these products” said Sanmi Areola, interim director of the MPHD. “We will continue to monitor and investigate reports of illnesses and urge everyone to consider not using e-cigarettes and follow guidance from the CDC.”

The guidance from the CDC are as follows:

  • “Regardless of the ongoing investigation: E-cigarette, or vaping, products should never be used by youths, young adults, or women who are pregnant.
  • “Do not use e-cigarette, or vaping, products that contain THC.
  • “Do not buy any type of e-cigarette, or vaping, products, particularly those containing THC, off the street.
  • “Do not modify or add any substances to e-cigarette, or vaping, products that are not intended by the manufacturer, including products purchased through retail establishments.
  • “Adults who do not currently use tobacco products should not start using e-cigarette, or vaping, products.
  • “THC use has been associated with a wide range of health effects, particularly with prolonged heavy use. The best way to avoid potentially harmful effects is to not use THC, including through e-cigarette, or vaping, products. Persons with marijuana use disorder should seek evidence-based treatment by a health care provider.
  • “There is no safe tobacco product, and the use of any tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, carries a risk.”

Symptoms of these severe pulmonary diseases, according to MPHD, include “cough(ing), shortness of breath and/or chest pain, and growing worse over a period of days or weeks before admission to the hospital.” Additional symptoms include “fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea.” All patients experiencing these symptoms have reported using e-cigarette or vaping products.

The MPHD has said that at this time, there is no single product or substance that has been linked to all lung injury cases, and that the specific chemical or ingredient linking the cases remains unknown. In the majority of cases, however, patients have “acknowledged recent use of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC-containing e-cigarette products.”

TDH is continuously updating the information relating to this investigation and the number of Tennessee patients associated with this outbreak online here. 

According to the University of Michigan’s annual National Monitoring the Future Panel study,

the use of vaping products, or e-cigarettes, on college campuses doubled between 2017 and 2018—particularly vaping marijuana products.

“This doubling in vaping marijuana among college students is one of the greatest one-year proportional increases we have seen among the multitude of substances we measure since the study began over 40 years ago,” said John Schulenberg, the principal investigator of the study, in a written statement to Inside Higher Ed.

The study was found to be particularly worrying because of the students’ overall attitude that vaping is a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes.

“There’s this sense (that) it’s culturally approved,” Schulenberg said. “There’s this question of — ‘how bad can it really be?'”

TDH would like readers to know that “electronic cigarettes and other vaping devices are not approved by the FDA for smoking cessation. Smokers who are attempting to quit should use evidence-based treatments including counseling and FDA-approved medications. If you need help quitting tobacco products including e-cigarettes, contact your health care provider, your local health department or the Tennessee Tobacco QuitLine at 1-800-QUIT-NOW or www.tnquitline.org/.”

To contact Editor-in-Chief Angele Latham, email editor@mtsusidelines.com.

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