A new report from the CDC sheds some possible light on the spate of lung injuries associated with e-cigarette use. Although the exact cause of the injuries is unknown, the latest findings – which were published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) – suggest that THC products are playing a role in the outbreak. Most of the people (77%) in this outbreak reported using THC-containing products, or both THC-containing products and nicotine-containing products.

The report provides the first national comprehensive data on the characteristics of cases reported to CDC, including sex, age, and select substances used in e-cigarette, or vaping products. A second MMWR released from Wisconsin and Illinois had similar findings regarding THC use and contains more details on the characteristics of cases in those states, including demographics, as well as substances and product types used.

Based on this recent data, CDC recommends people consider refraining from use of e-cigarette or vaping products, particularly those containing THC.

“CDC is committed to finding out what is causing this outbreak of lung injury and death among individuals using vaping products” said Robert R. Redfield, MD, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We continue to work with FDA and state partners to protect the nation from this serious health threat.”

More information is needed to know whether a single product, substance, or brand is responsible for the lung injuries. Unraveling outbreaks such as this requires the collection and analysis of complex information. This epidemiologic investigation is particularly challenging given that it involves hundreds of cases across the country, and patients report use of a wide variety of products and substances.

According to CDC’s national-level report, data about substances used in e-cigarettes, or vaping, products were self-reported by 514 patients. Of the patients who reported what products they used:

  • About 77% reported using THC-containing products, with or without nicotine-containing products; 36% reported exclusive use of THC-containing products; and
  • 16% reported exclusive use of nicotine-containing products.

In addition, the report from Illinois and Wisconsin showed that nearly all THC-containing products reported were packaged, prefilled cartridges that were primarily acquired from informal sources such as friends, family members, illicit dealers, or off the street.

As of September 24, 2019, 805 confirmed and probable cases of lung injury associated with e-cigarette product use, or vaping, have been reported to CDC by 46 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Those cases included 12 deaths in 10 states (CA (2), GA, FL, IL, IN, KS (2), MN, MO, MS, OR). More than two-thirds of patients are male. The median age of cases is 23 years, with about 62 % of patients aged 18-34 years, according to the new report.

More information about the investigation is available on the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/lunginjury.