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Bronx teen is first in state to die of vaping-related illness, officials say

A woman is seen using an electronic cigarette

A woman is seen using an electronic cigarette on Oct. 4, 2019. Photo Credit: AP/Tony Dejak

A Bronx teenager is the first New Yorker to die of a vaping-related illness, state officials said Tuesday.

The Bronx teen was hospitalized in early September with a respiratory illness associated with vaping, the state Department of Health said. He was readmitted to the hospital in late September and died at The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in the Bronx on Oct. 4.

The teen is one of 114 people statewide who developed severe pulmonary illness associated with vaping, and the youngest of the 23 to have died nationally, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and health officials from New York and other states.

In New York, patients with the lung illnesses have ranged in age from 14 to 71, health officials said.

Nationwide, as of Oct. 1, 1,080 people have had lung injuries linked to e-cigarettes, the CDC said. On Long Island, at least 34 people have had lung illnesses in the past few months associated with vaping, hospital officials from across the Island said.

“Parents have to know, young people have to know: You are playing with your life when you play with this stuff,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said at a news conference Tuesday.

Cuomo and others have accused vape-product companies of marketing to young people — an allegation the companies deny.

But Cuomo said at the news conference, “When you are selling bubble gum and Scooby Doo flavor, you know exactly what you're doing. You are targeting young people.”

New York State was set to begin enforcing a ban on flavored e-cigarettes last Friday, but a state appeals court issued a temporary restraining order Thursday blocking it until a lower court can review a request by the Washington, D.C.-based Vapor Technology Association to issue a temporary injunction against the flavor prohibition. The association represents vape-related businesses.

The state health department is investigating the teen’s death, including whether he vaped nicotine, THC or both, health officials said in an email. THC is the chemical in marijuana that causes a high and is illegal in New York, except for those authorized to use marijuana for state-approved medical reasons.

“People should never use products purchased ‘off the street’ because they may contain unknown and harmful ingredients,” the health department warns.

Nationally, 37 percent of those with vaping-related lung illnesses whose e-cigarette history is known vaped THC, another 41 percent said they vaped THC and nicotine, and 17 percent said they only vaped nicotine, according to the CDC.

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