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Dying for an E-Cigarette

An unnamed individual in Illinois who had been hospitalized with severe respiratory illness linked to vaping has died in the first reported instance of a death related to e-cigarette products, the Illinois Department of Public Health said on Friday.

The death comes amid a growing number of reports of lung injury linked to vaping nationwide. In a press briefing, the US Centers for Disease Control's Acting Deputy Director for Non-Infectious Diseases Ileana Arias said that the agency is investigating 193 potential cases of vaping-related illness across 22 states. Although some patients have reported vaping THC-containing products, no specific product has been conclusively linked to the illnesses.

"Even though cases appear similar, it isn't clear if these cases have a common cause or if they are different diseases with similar presentations," Arias said. "The state departments of health are investigating the possible cause of the illness by testing patient specimens and e-cigarette products, as well."

The CDC is also working with the US Food and Drug Administration, which is providing technical and laboratory support to help identify substances that may be causing the illnesses. 

"We find ourselves in the early stages of these investigations trying to piece together the facts," Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products, said during the press conference. "At times we are reliant on case reporting that is incomplete and requires time to gather basic information like the name of the product that was used, where it was purchased, and then how the product was used. … Those kinds of facts need to be strung together for every single one of these cases so that we can see if there are any kind of patterns that emerge."