Mass. announces five more cases of vaping-related illness

Flavored vaping solutions are shown in a window display at a vape and smoke shop in New York, photographed on Sept. 16.
Flavored vaping solutions are shown in a window display at a vape and smoke shop in New York, photographed on Sept. 16.AP/Associated Press

State public health officials on Monday announced five more reported cases of vaping-related illness, bringing the statewide total of Massachusetts cases reported to federal health authorities to 10.

Of the newly announced cases, two were confirmed to have a vaping-related injury, while in three cases vaping was thought to be the probable cause of an injury, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health in a release. The state said it reported the new cases to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“While no one has pinpointed the exact cause of this outbreak of illness, we do know that vaping and e-cigarettes are the common thread and are making people sick,” the state’s public health commissioner, Dr. Monica Bharel, said in a statement.


Bharel has mandated that Massachusetts clinicians immediately report any unexplained vaping-associated lung injury to her department. Governor Charlie Baker last week declared a public health emergency and applied a four-month ban to tobacco and marijuana vaping products.

So far, 83 “suspected vaping-related pulmonary cases” have been reported to the state’s Department of Public Health since Sept. 11. Of those cases, 51 are currently being investigated, with state officials collecting medical records and conducting patient interviews. Twenty two of the cases did not meet official CDC definitions, state officials said, while the other 10 were reported to the CDC.

Critics of the ban have called it overly broad, noting that federal health authorities looking into a wave of vaping-related illnesses have so far been focused on additives in black-market cartridges used to vape marijuana products.

Three vape shops sued the Baker administration Sunday over the emergency four-month ban on sales of e-cigarette products, a ban that their lawyer said amounts to a “death sentence,” the State House News Service reported. In Massachusetts, health officials say one of the 10 people who has been sickened reported vaping only nicotine cartridges. Half of them said they had only vaped marijuana products, and four said they did both.


Cigarette smoking is the country’s leading cause of premature death. However, research — both recent and dating back to 2012 — suggests that some of the chemicals used in vaping liquids can harm the lungs. The vaping liquid is heated into a gas, typically by battery-operated metal coils, to be inhaled.

Nationwide, the investigation into the cause of the vaping-related lung injuries -- which have caused 12 deaths and 805 illnesses — has centered around additives in cannabis oil cartridges purchased on the illicit market. Cartridges are sealed small vials used to hold a liquid mixture of concentrated THC, the main psychoactive chemical that produces a high feeling, which is typically heated by battery-operated metal coils and inhaled.

About 77 percent of the 514 patients interviewed across the country reported using vaping products containing THC, federal officials said Friday. Anne Schuchat, CDC’s principal deputy director, testified last week that most patients reported purchasing products from people they knew, rather than a store.

Many patients who got sick said they vaped both nicotine and THC, and about 16 percent said they vaped nicotine e-cigarettes exclusively.

Naomi Martin and Dan Adams of Globe staff contributed to this report. Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.