Kansas health officials say they have confirmed the first death in that state related to an outbreak of a lung disease linked to vaping. Kansas becomes at least the sixth state to confirm a death possibly blamed on using e-cigarettes since last month.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment said in a news release Tuesday the recent death involved a Kansas resident over the age of 50 who had a history of underlying health issues. The unidentified patient was hospitalized with symptoms that progressed rapidly.
Health officials said they do not have detailed information on what specific e-cigarette products were used by the deceased Kansas patient.
The state has had six reports of illness possibly associated with the national lung disease outbreak, including three which they believe to be confirmed or probable cases. The remaining three are still under investigation.
On Friday, officials in Indiana, California and Minnesota reported deaths in their states linked to vaping. Previous deaths have been reported in Illinois and Oregon.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging people to consider stopping vaping as the number of cases of severe lung illnesses possibly linked to e-cigarettes has surged to more than 450. Investigators say many of the cases involve vaping products that include the primary ingredient of marijuana, THC.
The new reported death comes as federal health authorities say vaping giant Juul Labs illegally pitched its electronic cigarettes as a safer alternative to smoking, including in a presentation at schools. The FDA on Monday issued a stern warning letter to the company, raising concerns about Juul's claim that its products are "much safer than cigarettes."
Meanwhile, Michael Bloomberg slammed the FDA for contributing to the epidemic of teen vaping in the U.S. The billionaire philanthropist announced Tuesday that his non-profit, Bloomberg Philanthropies, is pledging $160 million to fund a new program aimed at ending vaping among teens. It follows a new study that found flavor was the reason most young adults said they started using e-cigarettes.
When asked on "CBS This Morning" whether he blames the FDA, Bloomberg said, "Yes is the answer to your question."
"You don't let the public do something while the science says it's probably bad for you and you're in the middle of conducting research," Bloomberg continued. "Wait until you do the research. If it's no problem, no harm, no foul."
The deadline for e-cigarette companies to demonstrate to the FDA that their products can help people quit smoking cigarettes is in 2020. Bloomberg said it's too little, too late.
"People are dying now and getting addicted," Bloomberg said. "The timeline is yesterday, not tomorrow."