A fourth person has died in Massachusetts from a vaping-related illness, state health officials announced Wednesday.
The person was a man in his 70s from Middlesex County who reported vaping THC, the compound of marijuana that makes consumers high.
His case is one of 36 confirmed vaping-related illnesses that the state has reported to federal health officials at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since Sept. 11, 2019. There are 73 other cases that are considered probable that have also been reported to the federal agency.
“Today’s news is a tragic reminder that we must remain vigilant about the dangers of vaping,” Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel said in a statement. “There are resources available to help people quit and we encourage anyone to use these resources.”
A spokeswoman for DPH said the man had been sick for “a long time” but only died recently. Officials did not have a chance to interview him about where he bought the products he vaped.
State health officials reported the first two vaping-related deaths in Massachusetts in October — a woman in her 40s from Middlesex County and a woman in her 60s from Hampshire County. The third death, a man in his 50s from Worcester County, was reported in November.
The majority of confirmed and probable cases in Massachusetts have involved vaping THC in some form. As of Wednesday, of 109 confirmed and probable cases, 40 percent vaped only THC, 35 percent vaped only nicotine, and 27 percent vaped both.
About half of the cases have been seen in people under the age of 30, according to health officials.
As of Dec. 27, at least 55 people have died nationwide from vaping-related illnesses, the CDC announced last week. Deaths have been reported in 27 states and the District of Columbia. Across New England, Connecticut, and Rhode Island have also reported deaths. The CDC is no longer reporting how many deaths have occurred in each state, though most states — including Massachusetts — have been publicly reporting that data.
More than 2,500 hospitalized cases of vaping-related illnesses have been reported in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.
In September, the onslaught of vaping-related illnesses prompted Governor Charlie Baker to temporarily ban the sale of all vaping products in Massachusetts, the most stringent vaping ban taken by any governor nationwide. The ban faced a handful of lawsuits in state and federal court, as vape sales faced plummeting revenue and imminent closure.
Baker ended that ban in December when state health officials passed new regulations for the sale of nicotine vaping products. He also signed into law a new bill — touted as the nation’s strictest e-cigarette bill — that bans the sale of all flavored tobacco and vaping products.
The oversight of cannabis vaping products was left to the Cannabis Control Commission, which has quarantined all vaping products manufactured before Dec. 12, 2019. Newly manufactured vaping products are required to pass new tests that detect the presence of vitamin E acetate, an ingredient that health officials have determined to be one cause of the vaping illnesses.