Nearly one-fourth of all confirmed vaping illness cases in Ohio are from Summit and Portage counties, state data released Thursday shows.
The Ohio Department of Health reported that 13 cases of vaping-related lung illness have been confirmed in the state. Two of those cases are from Summit County and one from Portage County, fully 23 percent of the state's tally.
Two weeks ago, no cases had been confirmed in the state.
Cory Kendrick, policy and legislative affairs manager with Summit County Public Health, said the agency hasn’t changed its approach to the problem despite the sudden uptick.
"We put out a pretty stern warning last week and that’s still the approach we’re talking," Kendrick.
On Sept. 2, the county agency advised people who vape to immediately kick their habit. The warning followed weeks of CDC reports on the pulminary illness linked to vaping.
Kendrick said one other case in the county is currently under investigation.
Meghan Smith, public information officer with the Ohio Department of Health, said the state agency continues to work with the CDC to track cases and collect data on the illness.
Fourteen cases remain under investigation in Ohio.
Nationwide, vapers tend to be younger than the population as a whole, and Ohio is no different. The 13 confirmed cases range from 16 to 26.
Some news reports have focused on causes — such as vitamin E oil and counterfeit THC cartridges — that aren’t common to all cases. Although a large percentage of the cases have traced back to black market THC cartridges, that’s not true across the board, said Kendrick.
"[Vapers] want us to look just at black market sales," he said. "They are ignoring all the other information about it."
Kendrick said vaping has been shown to increase the risk of heart attacks and other health issues. As data accumulates, more dangers become apparent, he said.
Pinning down a cause of the vaping illness outbreak is difficult because there’s not a single substance present in all cases of the illness, he said.
"There is a lot of dual use which makes it a lot more complicated — people who used multiple vaping products," he said.
Smith said that nothing in data about Ohio’s cases varies much from the nation as a whole.
"There’s nothing unique to Ohio," she said. She declined to discuss details on the Summit and Portage county cases.
On Tuesday, the vaping illness claimed a sixth victim. According to Kansas officials, the woman who died was 50 with a history of health problems.
In its latest update, the CDC said over 450 possible cases of the illness have been reported in 33 states. It noted the link to THC cartridges in many of the cases, but emphasized the lack of a THC connection to others.
"The investigation has not identified any specific substance or e-cigarette product that is linked to all cases," the CDC said.
On Wednesday, the White House took aim at the vaping culture, announcing that it's planning to ban flavored e-cigarettes in coming months.
According to the plan, companies could apply to the Food and Drug Administration to bring their flavored products back on the market, but they'd have to be approved by the agency.
Alan Ashworth can be reached at 330-996-3859 or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @newsakronbeaconjournal.