JACKSON, Miss. — The Mississippi Department of Health reported the state's first vaping-associated death on Thursday.
Officials didn't release any information except to say that the individual was under the age of 30.
To date, the state has reported four cases of serious injuries related to vaping in individuals between 18 and 34 years of age.
Nationwide there have been 530 cases of lung illness from 38 state and 10 deaths — two in California, two in Kansas, and one in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Oregon and now Mississippi.
“Any death related to vaping is one too many, and this is entirely preventable,” said MSDH State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers. “We grieve with the family over this loss, and our hopes are that this helps emphasize how serious the dangers of vaping can be.”
People who are getting sick typically have a cough, shortness of breath, nausea, chest pain, and some people vomit, have abdominal pain, and fever.
If you think you are sick and have been vaping, make sure you go see a doctor right away.
Health experts generally consider e-cigarettes less harmful than traditional cigarettes because they don’t contain all the cancer-causing byproducts of burning tobacco. But there’s virtually no long-term research on the health effects of the vapor produced when e-cigarettes heat a liquid with nicotine.
Dr. Dale Criner, medical director of Saint Francis Hospital-Bartlett's emergency department, doesn't mince words talking about vaping.
"It is serious," Criner said. "It is deadly and we are now seeing cases all across the country."
Health officials are investigating hundreds of recent cases of the lung illness. Many patients said they vaped THC, marijuana’s intoxicating chemical, with bootleg devices, but officials have not yet implicated any common product or ingredient.
Meanwhile, underage vaping has reached epidemic levels, health officials say. In a government survey, more than 1 in 4 high school students reported using e-cigarettes in the previous month despite federal law banning sales to those under 18.
While health experts across the country are sounding alarm bells on vaping, Todd Donk, owner of Zooks Vapor in Bartlett, is too, but his take is different.
"This has scared the wrong crowd," Donk said.
He's owned his shop for the last six years, and he's working to educate his customers after the recent news of vaping deaths.
He said what looks to be happening is younger people are getting their hands on cartridges off the dangerous black market, not purchasing them legally or through proper channels.
"We've been vaping in the country for more than 10 years, we've got over 10 million existing vapers, and this all started within about six to eight weeks," Donk said.
But Criner said we have been seeing cases even a year ago.
"And we just thought it was an unusual pneumonia the young person had developed," Criner said. "Now that we see there's some commonality in these disease processes, we can look back and go, you know what, that might've been due to e-cigarettes, vaping or juul-ing."
Experts said in some of the cases, people have reported using THC products, some nicotine, but no specific product or device has been nailed down as the cause of illness.