The death occurred as doctors and hospitals across the US report an increasing number of vaping-related respiratory illnesses this summer.
A total of 193 cases have been reported in 22 states, including 22 cases in Illinois, officials say.
They have been stumped in recent weeks by the cause. State investigators have not found a common link – other than vaping in general – among the patients turning up in emergency rooms.
But officials don’t know whether the ailments have been caused by marijuana-type products, e-cigarettes, by vaping some type of street concoction, or whether a contaminant or defective device may have been involved.
The Illinois patient’s death was disclosed during a news conference held by officials at the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the state of Illinois.
They did not provide details about the patient’s identity, saying only that the person was an adult who had vaped recently and then succumbed to a severe respiratory illness.
Health officials did not say what product the patient had used, whether an e-cigarette or other vaping device; nor did they specify what substance had been vaped.
Amid the lack of information, investigators are scrambling to find shared links to the respiratory problems.
Officials said this week that many patients, most of whom were adolescents or young adults, had described difficulty breathing, chest pain, vomiting and fatigue.
The most seriously ill patients have had extensive lung damage that has required treatment with oxygen and days on a ventilator. Some are expected to have permanent lung damage.
“We’re at a relatively early stage of understanding,” Mitchell Zeller, director for the Centre for Tobacco Products at the FDA, said.
The collective agencies were throwing “a lot of resources at this”, he added, but part of the problem was that state investigations are not always complete, making it difficult to form a clear picture.
The New York Times