Florida reports first vaping-related death

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) – The Florida Department of Health is reporting the state's first death from a lung injury associated with vaping.

It comes amid a nationwide outbreak of lung problems associated with e-cigarettes, marking the 10th reported death tied to vaping use.

The Florida death is posted on the department’s public health statistics website, on a chart tracking cases of lung injury associated with e-cigarette use.

The chart lists 27 reported cases of lung injury tied to vaping in Florida in 2019, and one death. It’s not clear when that death occurred, though the chart was last updated Tuesday.

WCTV has reached out to the Department of Health for more details.

The health department website says the chart documents lung injury associated with vaping using an electronic device, electronic cigarette, e-cigarette, vaporizer, vape, vape pen, dab pen, or other to inhale substances including nicotine, marijuana, THC, THC concentrates, CBD, synthetic cannabinoids, flavorings, or other substances.

We also reached out to the Florida Smoke-Free Association, an advocacy group for vaping businesses and consumers.

The group responded with a statement first issued September 11. It says in part, "...the vast majority of the victims of these illnesses admitted to using illicit THC cartridges. Further, the investigation had been narrowed down to a specific brand on the black market..."

Health officials say hundreds of people have fallen ill nationwide in recent months with lung injuries associated with e-cigarette use.

Tuesday, testifying before congress, staff with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the agency is struggling to keep up with the growing outbreak.

"The epidemic is moving faster than our data gathering," said Dr. Anne Schuchat, "we really are losing people in the meantime."

On Friday, the Florida Department of Health announced it was responding to the emerging public health issue.

The department said it was coordinating with federal agencies to develop a disease case definition and report cases to the CDC as part of the national investigation.

Florida DOH also said it's working with county health departments to identify and investigate reports, and monitoring and conducting surveillance of lung disease that is associated with electronic cigarette or vaping use.

The department encourages health care providers to report cases to their county health department or the state DOH Bureau of Epidemiology.