Health Officials Investigating Colorado's Possible First Vaping-Related Death

Colorado health officials are investigating the state's possible first vaping-related death.
Colorado health officials are investigating the state's possible first vaping-related death. Ben Moran
State health officials are investigating the death of a young man in what could be Colorado's first vaping-related fatality.

"Confirming the cause will take significant time as we await autopsy results and additional testing. It typically takes 6-8 weeks to get these kinds of results back. The death being investigated is an 18-year-old male, Denver metro-area. We cannot give any other details about this death," Shannon Barbare, a spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, wrote in an email to Westword.

The department publishes weekly tallies of cases of vaping-related illness in the state. As of October 23, the department listed eleven confirmed or probable cases. Eight involved men, and the average age of those involved in the cases was 25.

According to a recent study, Colorado has the highest vaping rate among youth. But we haven't seen as many vaping-related illnesses as other states.

There have been 1,604 confirmed cases of vaping-related illness nationwide, including 34 that have ended in death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These vaping-related illnesses have been linked to both nicotine and THC products.

In Colorado, the state government has taken some minor steps to address the epidemic. In early October, the Marijuana Enforcement Division announced that it was considering stricter rules over THC vape products. But any proposed regulations wouldn't be widespread, instead focusing on three THC vaping product additives that have been linked to illnesses around the U.S.

During the most recent legislative session, state lawmakers unsuccessfully attempted to pass a bill that would have heavily taxed vaping products.

Other states have taken more decisive action.

In September, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer enacted a six-month ban on the sale of all flavored vaping products. Shortly thereafter, New York banned flavored products for three months. And at the end of September, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced a four month flavor ban on all vaping products, including both nicotine and THC.
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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports.