Vaping injuries claim first life in Indiana, health officials say

The first death of an Indiana resident due to severe lung injury linked to “vaping,” or e-cigarette use, was reported Friday by the state health department.

Health officials did not name the person or provide other details, citing privacy laws, other than to say the person was older than 18. The state said it confirmed the death Thursday.

“The tragic loss of a Hoosier and rising number of vaping related injuries are warnings that we cannot ignore,” Dr. Kristina Box, state health commissioner, said in a media release. “We know that these products typically contain nicotine, which is highly addictive, and many cases report inhaling THC and other substances not available in commercial products.”

The state health department said it is investigating 30 cases of severe lung injury linked to vaping. Eight of those have been confirmed—most of them among individuals between the ages of 16 and 29.

Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says more than 215 cases of severe lung injury have been reported.

Health officials say it’s unclear what substances are causing lung injury. No common substance has been identified in the Indiana cases.

The use of e-cigarettes is a rising public health crisis in the U.S. An Indiana survey last year found that vaping has increased 387% among high school students and 358% among middle school students since 2012.

Nearly 35,000 additional Indiana students began vaping between 2016 and 2018, the state said.

Last month, the family of a Carmel teenager sued e-cigarette maker Juul Labs Inc., saying the company’s products contained high amounts of nicotine and do not include warnings that the products can become addictive.

The teenager first tried Juul e-cigarettes in 2015 and quickly grew addicted, suffering health problems including anxiety, irritability and severe headaches, according to the complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis.

The lawsuit was the first such federal lawsuit in Indiana against Juul. The company said the lawsuit was without merit, saying its products were a “viable alternative” for 1 billion smokers worldwide.

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