Dec. 19 (UPI) -- The number of vaping-related lung illness deaths reported by federal health authorities rose again this week to 56, up four from last week's total. The deaths occurred in 27 states.
A total of 2,506 patients have been hospitalized, an increase of 97 from last week. Cases have been found in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.
Meanwhile, the number of U.S. high school and middle school students who say they vape marijuana is increasing, according to a study released this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Minnesota researchers found 15 percent of adolescents and teens had tried THC vapes in 2018, up from 11 percent the year before. About 3.5 percent of high school seniors responding to the Monitoring Your Future project said they vaped THC almost every day.
Two other studies released this week showed that vaping nicotine, just like cigarettes, hurt the lungs and that vaping may lead to a higher number of diagnoses than tobacco smoking for asthma and other chronic lung diseases.
Researchers in Belfast, Northern Ireland, reported in the journal Respiratory Research that both e-cigarettes and cigarettes inflamed human lung cells and increased the harmfulness of common lung germs and cause persistent infection.
California researchers found that e-cigarette users studied between 2013-2016 were 30 percent more likely than tobacco users to receive a new medical diagnosis for chronic lung diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder.
For people who both vaped and smoked, risks of developing a lung disease more than tripled, researchers at University of California, San Francisco's Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education said.
In the national vaping crisis, health officials from the CDC are still pointing the finger at the cutting agent vitamin E acetate, which showed up in lung tissue from patients from 10 states who said they vaped illicit THC vapes.
But other substances and product sources are being investigated, and there may be more than a single cause, the agency said.
Federal health investigators are still recommending that people not use THC-containing vaping products, particularly from illegal sources. They also should not use vaping products that have been altered, the agency said.
Symptoms seen in lung illness patients have included shortness of breath, coughing, chest pain and gastrointestinal symptoms of abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Other patients exhibited fever, chills and weight loss.