Two more people have died in Minnesota as a result of severe lung injuries linked to vaping, state health officials have announced.
The Minnesota Department of Health has confirmed that two people over the age of 50 died in September following "complicated hospitalizations," having been admitted with difficulty breathing.
The first person who died was found to have vaped "a number of products including illegal THC," while the second had severe underlying health conditions and is believed to have vaped unknown products in addition to nicotine.
It comes after hundreds of severe lung injuries linked to vaping products have been reported across the country, and follows the first confirmed death linked to vaping in Minnesota, which happened on Sept. 6.
"We are saddened by the news of these deaths, and we are troubled that so many Minnesotans continue to suffer in this outbreak," said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm.
"We’re working hard with our partners across the country to learn as much as we can about these injuries and deaths, and to determine what can be done to prevent them."
There are currently 73 patients in Minnesota who have confirmed or probable cases of severe lung injury linked to vaping.
While it investigates the products used in the fatal incidents, the health department says it "cannot guarantee the safety of any vaping products."
"People vaping nicotine to help quit smoking should consider alternative options to support their quit efforts," it says. "People vaping medicine from Minnesota’s medical cannabis program should talk with their health care provider about whether another delivery method may be right for them. People who vape and experience signs of respiratory illness should seek medical care."
Gov. Tim Walz, who has launched an "aggressive" outreach campaign to explain the dangers of vaping across the state, issued the following statement:
“My heart is with the families, friends, and communities of these two Minnesotans. Seventy-three Minnesotans, who have experienced severe lung injury in this outbreak associated with vaping illegal THC over the past several months, is too many. In addition to these dramatic injuries, we are concerned about the long-term health impacts of vaping. The Administration is launching an aggressive outreach campaign to ensure Minnesotans know the risks of vaping and putting together bold legislative policies to tackle this crisis head on. We must ensure Minnesotans have the information, support, and resources to fight back against those profiting at the expense of our health and well-being."
Nationally, almost 1,300 lung injury cases associated with the use of e-cigarette or vaping products have been reported to the CDC, with 26 confirmed deaths, not including the two latest deaths in Minnesota.