The number of deaths tied to vaping has climbed to 16 across the country.
State officials in Nebraska, New Jersey and Virginia each reported a death this week, though the death in Nebraska reportedly occurred in May and was only recently revealed to have been caused by a severe lung disease thought to have been brought on by excessive vape usage.
The three deaths were all the first reports of such cases in their respective states, according to statements from local officials.
“I am deeply saddened to announce the first death of a Virginia resident related to this outbreak. Our thoughts are with the family during this difficult time,” said Virginia state Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver said Tuesday.
“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,” said New Jersey Department of Health acting Commissioner Judith Persichilli in a press release.
Nebraska officials said in a Monday news release that the state and others were working to determine if other deaths related to vape usage occurred before Nebraska began tracking the issue this year.
“Prior to the outbreak of lung injury associated with vaping in Wisconsin and Illinois this past August, vaping-associated lung injuries were unreported and not tracked by public health agencies," said Tom Safranek, Nebraska's state epidemiologist.
“Once the problem was recognized, states quickly ramped up surveillance and found current cases, but have also discovered cases that occurred before the August outbreak," he added.
Health officials are unsure what directly links e-cigarette use to lung illnesses reported in states across the country and have warned consumers to only purchase from reputable buyers.