New Jersey health officials report first death linked to vaping

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The New Jersey Department of Health says that a northern New Jersey woman died in August from complications from a lung disease associated with vaping.

State officials say that the total number of confirmed and probable cases of the lung disease in New Jersey has risen to 14. Officials say that the recent death was one of the probable cases.

State officials did not say what type of product the victim was using when she developed the illness. But they did state that none of the vaping lung illnesses in New Jersey are linked with products sold in dispensaries permitted under the state medical marijuana program.

RELATED: Gov. Murphy creates task force to probe vaping health concerns 
RELATED: Rep. Gottheimer announces plan to curb underage vaping 

“The New Jersey Department of Health is saddened to announce a death associated with this outbreak. This death underscores the potential dangers associated with vaping,” says Department of Health acting Commissioner Judith Persichilli.

On Sept. 12, Gov. Phil Murphy announced the creation of the Electronic Smoking Device Task Force to investigate the potential harm that using electronic cigarettes may pose. Persichilli is the head of the task force, which is supposed to release its findings within the next few days.

More than a dozen people have died across the country from the mysterious lung illness, and hundreds more have reported illnesses.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last month its investigation into the outbreak is looking at products containing the marijuana compound THC.

MORE: Glen Rock HS to install scent detectors to discourage teens from vaping 

Vape shop owner Mark Awad says that his business has taken a hit due to the media coverage surrounding the illnesses. He says that there is a difference between legitimate vape shops and products sold on the black market.

‘Most of these people off the streets are making it themselves and God knows where,” he says. “Obviously we don't know what's in them. No one knows what's in them when they are coming right off the street.”

Concerns that teenagers are getting hooked on vaping and getting sick has prompted calls for a nationwide ban.

Rutgers Associate Professor Pamela Valera is researching the use of e-cigarettes. She says that the poor and certain minority populations are most at risk and are not getting good health information.

"We're missing the boat. We have to provide applications that are simple, easy to understand and that are not to focus on the punitive measures,” she says.

More than 500 illnesses have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control which continues to investigate links between lung illness and vaping. Sixteen vaping deaths confirmed in the U.S.

The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report. 

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