The Berkshire Eagle   reports with six people dead and hundreds sickened nationwide from a vaping-associated lung illness, Berkshire health officials are doubling down on the message that they have been sending for years: We don't know what's in the vapor.

Massachusetts has had 10 suspected cases of vaping-associated pulmonary disease, but none of them has been confirmed, according to the Department of Public Health. In August, the Pulmonary Department at Berkshire Health Systems saw one case of lung injury that is suspected to be caused by vaping, and it reported that case to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

E-cigarettes and vaporizers, or vapes, commonly are used to ingest nicotine or THC. This year, 25 percent of Berkshire County students who participated in a youth assessment survey said they used the devices in the previous 30 days.

As of Sept. 6, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had received reports of more than 450 possible cases of lung illness associated with e-cigarette or vaping products from 33 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. As of Tuesday, there had been six confirmed deaths.

While state and federal health officials have not yet isolated the cause of the illness, all patients had a history of vaping, most of them having used THC products.

The CDC recommends that everyone concerned about the health risks refrain from using e-cigarettes or vaping products, and emphasized not buying the products off the street, as their cartridges can be tampered with during manufacturing.

 

Vapes, which took Berkshire County schools by storm in 2016, have been marketed as less harmful than smoking because their cartridges allegedly have fewer chemicals than cigarettes.

Local health officials have been working to get the word out that it is too soon to know the long-term effects of the oil in vape cartridges.

 

While there is no identified culprit for the disease, the New York state Department of Public Health has identified vitamin E acetate — it has been used as a thickener in primarily black-market vape cartridges — as a key focus of its investigation.

 

Berkshire Health Systems has been working to direct patients looking to quit smoking away from vaping and toward other methods.

In response to the growing diagnoses, the FDA announced this week that it was finalizing a plan to crack down on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, products that opponents say are marketed toward children.