President Trump announced Wednesday that the White House and federal agencies will roll out heavy restrictions on the sale of e-cigarettes not containing tobacco in the next few weeks.
On Sept. 10, the sixth reported death from a severe respiratory illness related to vaping—this one in Kansas—was reported by the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC's latest data shows that roughly 500 similar cases have been reported.
One of the six national deaths came out of Oregon, where the person presented with similar symptoms as the other national cases and died sometime in July.
The Oregonian today spoke with two of the doctors who cared for the Oregon patient when the person fell ill. The doctors describe that the person struggled to survive for five weeks before dying.
Their account continues to point toward a possible cause of death: additives such as dilutants, added to cannabis oil in vape cartridges. The doctors said the victim regularly vaped cannabis for pain and recreationally.
Earlier this week, the Oregon Health Authority told WW it is working on gathering samples of what products and substances the person used so it can send them to national labs for testing, but since the agency didn't learn of the person's death until at least several weeks after it occurred, the OHA says gathering samples has proven to be difficult.
OLCC spokesman Mark Pettinger told WW in an email that the agency is considering bans on additives in vaping devices, that are often used to dilute the cannabis oil in the devices.
"In light of the emergence of the vaping illness issue, the OLCC will consider taking whatever action is appropriate where human health and public safety are threatened, including the recall of tainted product, and banning the use of additives linked to vaping-related illness," Pettinger said.
The announcement from the White House comes as individual states have considered how to deal with the national epidemic on a smaller scale. Earlier this week, Michigan banned the sale of all flavored e-cigarettes. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the state's Department of Health is investigating companies and the chemicals that go into their vaping devices, which he said might lead to a ban on flavored e-cigarettes.
Leading flavored e-cigarette company Juul has been pushing back against stricter regulations on the sale of its products and has fought against animus shown by the Food and Drug Administration towards Juul.
In a Sept. 9 letter to Juul CEO Kevin Burns from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the regulatory agency accused Juul of marketing malpractice by downplaying the negative effects of tobacco in Juul products.
"Your firm has engaged in labeling, advertising, and/or other activities directed to consumers, in which JUUL explicitly and/or implicitly has represented that JUUL products are free of a substance, have a reduced level of or exposure to a substance, and/or that JUUL products present a lower risk of tobacco-related disease or are less harmful than one or more other commercially marketed tobacco products," the letter reads.
The letter also alleges that Juul is in violation of a FDA act that requires companies to vet products they want to advertise as "modified risk tobacco products" before selling them on the market. The letter claims that Juul never received an effective order from the agency allowing the sale of e-cigarettes as a modified risk tobacco product.
The letter gives Juul 15 days to correct what the FDA deems negligent.
"Please submit a written response to this letter within 15 working days from the date of receipt describing your corrective actions, including the dates on which you discontinued the violative promotion, labeling, advertising, sale, and/or distribution of these tobacco products," it reads.