On September 6, Minnesota health officials confirmed that one senior citizen in Minnesota died in August of a lung injury associated with vaping—bringing the nationwide total of recent vaping-related deaths to six

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tina Smith (D-MN) urged the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to expedite their investigation into the rise of acute lung illnesses and deaths linked to the use of e-cigarette products such as vaporizers. On September 6, Minnesota health officials confirmed that one senior citizen in Minnesota died in August of a lung injury associated with vaping. As of today, the nationwide total of recent vaping-related deaths stands at six. Federal health officials have indicated that e-cigarette products may be responsible for roughly 450 cases of severe lung illnesses across 33 states, with these illnesses affecting many adolescents and young adults who were previously healthy. In the letter, the senators also urged the FDA to meaningfully regulate e-cigarettes to protect the public health—especially vulnerable populations including both young and older Americans.

“We appreciate that the CDC has cautioned the public against the use of e-cigarette products while the investigation into these illnesses remains ongoing—but we remain concerned that not enough is being done to appropriately regulate these products and ensure their safety for public use,” the senators wrote. “We urge you to continue to coordinate with Minnesota health officials and state health departments across the country to protect consumers and ensure the safety of the American people.”

The full text of the letter can be found below:

Dear Acting Commissioner Sharpless and Director Redfield:

We write to ask the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to expedite their investigation into the rise of acute lung illnesses and deaths linked to the use of e-cigarette products such as vaporizers, and to urge the FDA to meaningfully regulate e-cigarettes to protect the public health—especially vulnerable populations including both young and older Americans. 

On September 6, Minnesota health officials confirmed that one senior citizen in Minnesota died in August of a lung injury associated with vaping. As of today, the nationwide total of recent vaping-related deaths stands at six. Federal health officials have indicated that e-cigarette products may be responsible for roughly 450 cases of severe lung illnesses across 33 states, with these illnesses affecting many adolescents and young adults who were previously healthy. While several of the recent deaths have been tied to the vaping of illicit THC products and the CDC has indicated/stated that a particular chemical may be triggering these illnesses, the agency has not yet identified a single “device, product, or substance” responsible for the illnesses.

We appreciate that the CDC has cautioned the public against the use of e-cigarette products while the investigation into these illnesses remains ongoing—but we remain concerned that not enough is being done to appropriately regulate these products and ensure their safety for public use. As Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm has said, “One death from this outbreak is one death too many.” 

In addition, even though the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act and the Deeming Regulations for e-cigarettes provide the FDA with authority to regulate and review e-cigarette products prior to their sale, the agency has failed to do so in a meaningful way. As a result, vaporizers and other e-cigarette products have flooded the market even though we currently know very little about the harm these products may cause to the health of their users.

To better understand the actions you are taking to tackle this public health challenge, we respectfully request your response to the following questions:

1. What actions are your agencies considering to better regulate e-cigarette products to ensure their safety before they are sold to the public?

2. What is the current status of your investigations into the vaping products that have been linked to recent illnesses and deaths? What questions still need to be answered in determining the health impact of e-cigarette products? 

3. What actions are you taking to coordinate with state health departments to make sure that the public—especially vulnerable populations—is aware of the risks associated with vaping?

Thank you for your attention to this important public health issue. We urge you to continue to coordinate with Minnesota health officials and state health departments across the country to protect consumers and ensure the safety of the American people.

Sincerely,

Issues