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State health department urges anyone vaping to stop ‘immediately’

By Patrick Lynn

Health department officials from Milwaukee and state offices are urging anyone using vaping or e-smoking devices to stop.

“Stop using any vape and/or e-cigarette devices immediately,” a Wednesday news release from the Milwaukee Health Department reads. As of Tuesday, the department said 16 people in the city have been hospitalized with chemical pneumonia, which causes inflammation of the lungs. Each of the patients reported using vape products or marijuana oils, extracts or concentrates prior to getting sick.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services on Wednesday reported initial findings of its investigation into 27 reported cases of lung disease across the state believed to be related to vaping. Of those cases, 89 percent of the patients also reported using e-cigarettes or other vaping devices to inhale THC products, such as waxes and oils. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana.

“While most cases have reported vaping THC products, DHS is continuing to investigate all possible causes,” the news release said. “The connection to THC products is based on interviews with cases, and the agency is working with FDA to determine the contents of used vaping products.”

DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm said the department is strongly urging people not to vape.

“Vaping cartridges containing THC may include chemicals or additives that are unknown, unregulated, and unsafe,” she said.

More than 30 cases of suspected lung disease are still be investigated across the state, the DHS said, with patients in 14 counties: Dane, Dodge, Door, Green, Kenosha, La Crosse, Milwaukee, Portage, Racine, Sauk, Walworth, Washington, Waukesha, and Winnebago. No deaths have been reported in Wisconsin.

DHS said it was working with the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control to coordinate a national response to the nearly 200 illnesses in at least 22 other states.

“We will continue to provide updates when new information becomes available,” the DHS said.

Anyone experiencing unexplained shortness of breath, chest pain, cough, nausea, vomiting, fever, and weight loss should talk to their doctor.

To learn more about e-cigarettes and vaping products—including what they look like, their health risks for youth, and how to talk to kids about them—at tobaccoischanging.com.