Number of illnesses linked to vaping increases

Vapor from an e-cigarette slowly dissipates, but the number of illnesses related to vaping continues to increase.

"We are working with the CDC, the FDA, we are working with local health departments to try and determine what is the common substance, link thing that is causing this lung injury,” said Lara Anton with the Texas Department of State Health Services. 

The Department of State Health Services released the latest update on Tuesday. As of November 5, 173 illnesses are designated as confirmed or probable, an increase from the 165 cases reported in late October. Some are new, but a few are older incidents, according to Anton. Some of the cases may be from doctors going through files and reclassifying cases. 

“Right and even patients are going to their doctors saying, is this what I had,” said Anton.

The people in the Texas cases range in age from 13 to 75. The number reported Tuesday is expected to quickly increase because the state is currently reviewing 8 illnesses that may be linked to vaping. The majority of the cases continue to be in North Texas with 87, followed by Southeast Texas (37), and Central Texas (22). Austin and Travis County now report 13 cases. The common link remains liquid laced with THC.

"But it's too early to rule anything else out because they are also vaping other substances when they are vaping the marijuana and THC,” said Anton.

Nationally, the CDC is reporting 1,888 illnesses, almost 300 more than last week. The majority are male. Of the 38 deaths nationally, one took place in Texas. 

The situation is not only being tracked by health investigators, it is also getting the attention of law enforcement, specifically the DEA. Back in October, the DEA held its bi-annual pill take-back program. For the first time, the agency not only collected old medication, vaping materials were also turned in, according to Tim Davis, who leads the Austin office.

"We don't keep a tally, we don’t track what people drop in the boxes, but we have seen people drop vaping supplies into the boxes,” said Davis.

The next take-back day is in April. Some local authorities, like the Williamson County Sheriff's Office, have boxes for everyday dropoffs. Vaping materials are accepted. 

"It's the sign of the times, right, it's a new product and I think it's an untested product so I think the public is realizing there are potential health hazards, with these products,” said Davis.

Despite that, there is an emerging vaping trend with teenagers. According to studies published by the American Medical Association, 28 percent of high school students admit to vaping within the past month. Eleven percent were in middle school.

The teens who took part in the study also said they prefer e-cigarettes made by Juul Labs. The top flavor is mint, now that the company has removed products for stores that had a sweeter taste.