As the number of vaping-linked illness cases continues to grow, President Trump appears to be rethinking his administration's plan to ban flavored e-cigarettes in favor of a less drastic approach.
Cases of a vaping-linked illness surpass 2.2 K
CDC data updated Thursday shows the number of reported hospitalized cases of a lung illness officials believe is linked to e-cigarette use and vaping, dubbed EVALI, reached 2,291 as of Dec. 3. This data update from last Thursday marks a significant slowdown in the outbreak of cases, with just one new case since CDC's Nov. 20 update.
There have been 48 confirmed deaths related to the vaping-illness, according to CDC. Cases of the illness have been reported in 50 states, Washington, D.C., and two U.S. territories, with deaths confirmed in 25 states and the District of Columbia. Alaska last week announced the state's first case of the illness.
CDC officials in a report released last month announced a "breakthrough" in its investigation into what might be causing a lung illness linked to e-cigarette use and vaping. CDC officials said they found vitamin E acetate in all samples of lung fluid collected from 29 patients who were hospitalized with the illness after vaping, which suggests the oil is a potential cause of the condition.
CDC officials in a separate report released last month said 95% of vaping-linked illness cases have required patients to be hospitalized. Doctors report that patients' recoveries have varied, with some patients appearing to make full recoveries and others continuing to have trouble breathing. CDC in October reported that some patients have relapsed and had to be hospitalized a second time, with readmissions occurring from as few as five days to as many as 55 days after initial discharge.
CDC said it is unclear why those patients relapsed. However, Anne Schuchat—CDC's principal deputy director, who is overseeing the agency's investigation into the matter—said it is possible that the lung illness made the patients more susceptible to other conditions. In addition, she said steroids used to treat the lung illness could "set [patients] up for increased infection risk."
CDC is recommending that people avoid vaping products that contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the high inducing chemical found in marijuana, as well as adding any substances to their vaping products that manufacturers did not intend to be used, including certain products sold in retail stores.
President Trump seeks to strike balance on e-cigarette regulations
Amid the increasing cases of the vaping-linked illness, President Trump is seeking to strike a balance in how his administration regulates e-cigarettes. The administration in September announced that FDA intended to finalize a compliance policy that would clear the market of unauthorized, non-tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes, including mint and menthol flavors. However, FDA has yet to unveil a final plan to do so.
White House spokesperson Judd Deere on Tuesday said the administration has not abandoned or stalled FDA's proposal. Deere said, "The Administration continues to move forward on development of responsible guidelines that protect the public health and the American people."
Kellyanne Conway, a top adviser to Trump, said Trump is seeking to move forward with a more measured approach. She said Trump is "looking for a way to respect and recognize and accommodate the fact that e-cigarettes have a public health benefit for those legal adult users who are trying to come down from combustibles [cigarettes]" (Maddipatla/Sibi Joseph, Reuters, 12/5; Fernandez, Axios, 12/4; Klar, The Hill, 12/4; Hellmann, The Hill, 12/5).