The death marks the first in the state, but raises even more concern about the safety and regulation of e-cigarettes.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and state health departments have been investigating this outbreak. Health officials say they haven’t found a definitive cause or a clear connection between cases, but some are zeroing in on potential clues.
Here is what you need to know about vaping and vaping-related illnesses in the United States.
Before the death in Kansas, five deaths were reported in California, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Oregon.
Kansas health officials reported the patient who died was older than 50, had a history of underlying health issues and “was hospitalized with symptoms that progressed rapidly,” according to a statement from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
Health officials said it wasn’t clear what type of vaping products the patient was using.
What have vaping illness investigations found so far?
There are also separate investigations being conducted in separate states.
New York health officials said last week that extremely high levels of the chemical vitamin E acetate were found in nearly all cannabis-containing vaping products that were analyzed as part of the investigation. At least one vape product containing this chemical has been linked to each person who fell ill and submitted a product for testing in the state.
Laboratory tests conducted at the New York State Department of Health’s Wadsworth Center in Albany showed “very high levels” of vitamin E acetate in the cannabis-containing samples, the state health department announced.
Vitamin E acetate is now “a key focus” of the state’s investigation into the illnesses, the New York Department of Health said. Some of the products that have been found to contain vitamin E acetate are candy-flavored vapes.
What do doctors say?
The CDC says e-cigarettes should never be used by youth, young adults, pregnant women or adults who do not currently use tobacco products.
“If you or a loved one is vaping, please stop. The recent deaths across our country, combined with hundreds of reported lung injury cases continue to intensify. I’m extremely alarmed for the health and safety of Kansans who are using vaping products and urge them to stop until we can determine the cause of vaping related lung injuries and death,” Norman said.
“No one should use e-cigarettes or any other tobacco product. This message is even more urgent today following the increasing reports of vaping-related illnesses and deaths nationwide,” Harold Wimmer, national president and CEO of the association, said in a written statement.
The American Medical Association recently urged the public to avoid the use of e-cigarette products until health officials further investigate and understand the cause of the outbreak.
“The AMA recommends anyone who has recently used e-cigarette products to seek medical care promptly if they experience any adverse health effects, particularly coughing, shortness of breath or chest pain,” Dr. Patrice Harris, the association’s president, said in a written statement Monday.
Harris also had a message for the FDA.
“We must not stand by while e-cigarettes continue to go unregulated. We urge the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to speed up the regulation of e-cigarettes and remove all unregulated products from the market,” she said in part. “We also call on the FDA to immediately ban flavors, as well as marketing practices, that enhance the appeal of e-cigarette products to youth.”
What is the US Food and Drug Administration doing?
FDA spokeswoman Stephanie Caccomo said in an emailed statement Tuesday that getting to the bottom of the illnesses linked with vaping remains a “top priority” for the agency and its partners.
“At this time, more information is needed to better understand whether there’s a relationship between any specific products or substances and the reported illnesses. The illnesses under investigation involve the broader use of vaping products — including those being used with substances like THC; e-cigarettes are considered one type of vaping product,” the statement said in part.
The FDA is also taking action to stop the youth vaping epidemic, the statement said.
“To combat the epidemic rise in youth use of e-cigarettes, we’re aggressively enforcing the law and investing in campaigns to educate youth about the dangers of e-cigarette use. Our educational efforts include youth-focused prevention messages on TV, digital platforms, posters in high school bathrooms, and lesson plans developed with Scholastic for educators,” the statement said.
On Wednesday, the Trump administration announced plans to remove all flavored e-cigarettes — other than tobacco-flavored vapes — from the marketplace.
“We will not stand idly by as these products become an on-ramp to combustible cigarettes or nicotine addiction for a generation of youth,” he said.
As part of this plan, the FDA intends to finalize a policy in the coming weeks that would prioritize the agency’s enforcement of certain requirements for non-tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes, including mint and menthol, in an effort to clear the market of unauthorized products.
“The FDA plans to share more on the specific details of the plan and its implementation soon,” according to the announcement.
The FDA ordered Juul to respond within 15 working days with corrective actions and its plan to comply with federal law. The letter noted that failure to comply could result in fines, seizures or injunction.
Juul has maintained that its products are intended to convert adult smokers to what it described in the past as a less-harmful alternative. In other communications, the company says it cannot make claims its products are safer, in line with FDA regulations.
“We are reviewing the letters and will fully cooperate,” according to Ted Kwong, a Juul Labs spokesperson.
“We will continue to scrutinize tobacco product marketing and take action as appropriate to ensure that the public is not misled into believing a certain product has been proven less risky or less harmful,” he said. “We’ve also put the industry on notice: If the disturbing rise in youth e-cigarette use continues, especially through the use of flavors that appeal to kids, we’ll take even more aggressive action.”
Some public figures and lawmakers have argued that the FDA could do more.
US Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin has criticized the FDA and called on the agency to do more to regulate e-cigarettes.
Friday, after the news of additional deaths tied to vaping spread, Durbin called on Sharpless to move to regulate e-cigarettes and flavors in the next 10 days. Durbin said he would call for Sharpless’ resignation if he did not take action.
Then on Monday, Durbin said again in a news conference that it’s time Sharpless “either does something or resigns.” He added that public education on the issue is not enough and enforcement is needed.
“We have to send people undercover into these places that are selling these devices, and when we nail them selling them to people underage, they pay a heavy price for it. The word gets out quickly in the retail community,” he said.
In response the FDA has said that it looks forward to “engaging with Senator Durbin, along with all members of Congress” on this issue.
Is there action to ban e-cigarette products?
The goals of the three-year program include banning all flavored e-cigarettes, and stopping Juul and other e-cigarette companies from marketing their products to children, the organization said in a news release. It will be led by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, which will partner with other leading organizations including parent and community groups concerned about the nation’s children and health.
“The FDA can ban flavors immediately, but it has repeatedly kicked the can down the road when it comes to taking serious steps,” Bloomberg and Myers wrote.
The draft compliance policy would take action against stores selling flavored e-cigarette products that are accessible to minors and against websites selling them without verifying buyers’ ages and limiting the maximum quantities they sell. This proposal was made under former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb.
“We will have more details to share about the final compliance policy soon, including our plans to address this alarming trend among youth,” the agency said in its statement to CNN on Tuesday.
CNN’s Jamie Gumbrecht, Michael Nedelman, Katie Hunt and Nadia Kounang contributed to this report.