Utah cases of vaping-related illness rise again

(Tony Dejak | AP file photo) In this Friday, Oct. 4, 2019 photo, a woman using an electronic cigarette exhales in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. Only two years ago e-cigarettes were viewed as holding great potential for public health: offering a way to wean smokers off traditional cigarettes. But now Juul and other vaping companies face an escalating backlash that threatens to sweep their products off the market.

Cases of vaping-related illness in Utah rose again last week, from 71 to 76. And 14 potential cases remain under investigation, health officials reported on Monday.

Utah has had an abnormally high rate of the mysterious illness, though state officials confirmed fewer new cases last week than in the previous week.

Health officials have said more than 90 percent of the patients reported vaping unregulated THC products, which are illegal in Utah. Sixty percent of patients reported vaping nicotine products.

“Given the evidence, vaping unregulated THC cartridges or ‘carts’ is likely the driver of this outbreak of severe lung injury,” state health officials wrote in a news release Monday. “The [Utah Department of Health] recommends people do not vape unregulated THC cartridges until we learn more.”

The Utah Department of Health has drafted emergency rules limiting the sale of flavored e-cigarette products to tobacco specialty shops and requiring those shops to post warnings about the risks of vaping THC products. State officials had planned to enact the rules this week but delayed implementation to Oct. 21 to give general retailers, like grocery and convenience stores, more time to clear their inventories of flavored products. General retailers will still be allowed to sell unflavored e-cigarette products.