Vaping-related lung injuries and deaths have been declining for a couple of weeks, but Texas health officials have reported two recent deaths of patients with the condition dubbed EVALI by federal health authorities. One of the deaths was a Dallas County teen and the other was a Galveston woman in her early 30s.
The deaths are the second and third confirmed vaping-related deaths in Texas since the nationwide outbreak began in June. The first reported EVALI death – an elderly woman in North Texas – occurred in early October.
“Reporting a death in a teen due to EVALI is so tragic,” said Dr. Philip Huang, director of the Dallas County Health and Human Services (DCHHS), in a Dec. 31 statement. He said the young patient was a resident of Dallas County but did not provide any identifying information, including the patient’s exact date of death.
As of Dec. 30, Dallas County has received reports of 53 confirmed or probable cases of EVALI – an acronym for “Lung Injury Associated with the Use of E-Cigarette, or Vaping, Products.” There have been 228 confirmed cases of EVALI in all of Texas.
Nationwide 2,561 hospitalized EVALI cases or deaths have been reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. EVALI has killed 55 people as of Dec. 27.
According to Dr. Huang, one of the patients stricken with the mysterious vaping injury in Dallas County was a teen who had been vaping for just a month.
“We are seeing that severe lung damage, and even death, can occur with just short term use of these products,” Dr. Huang said.
Dr. Philip Keiser, director of the Galveston County Health District (GCHD), told the Houston Chronicle that the Galveston woman was between 30 and 35 and died on Dec. 29 after being treated at a local hospital for several months. As of Jan. 3, GCHD had received notice of four other confirmed EVALI cases. All of those patients are Galveston County residents.
“We’re very sad to report this death. I think it’s very sobering that we’re still seeing deaths from vaping illness,” Dr. Keiser told the Houston Chronicle. “This is a very serious public health threat, and we would encourage people to avoid vaping products if at all possible.”
Not all EVALI patients have used illicit vaping products. Some of the patients have reported using JUUL products and other legally obtained vapes.
In response to the EVALI outbreak and the epidemic of youth vaping, the Trump administration last week banned most flavored vapes in the U.S. The new restrictions, however, provide a giant loophole in allowing the continued sales of open-tank vaping systems, which allow users to formulate and flavor their own vape liquids. Critics of the new rules say they are a giant giveaway to the vaping industry and its lobbyists.
Beasley Allen lawyers Joseph VanZandt and Sydney Everett, together with Mass Torts Section Head Andy Birchfield, are currently representing several individuals who are suing the top U.S. vape maker JUUL for the negative impact its products have had on their lives.