The city of Milwaukee issued a health alert Wednesday urging residents to stop vaping "immediately," after at least 16 people were hospitalized with severe lung disease this month.
The individuals all reported using vape products or dabbing -- which is the vaping of marijuana oils, extracts or concentrates -- in the weeks and months prior to being hospitalized. They were diagnosed with severe chemical pneumonia, an inflammation of the lungs due to aspirating or inhaling of irritants, according to a press release from the city's health department. The specific products used were unknown.
Milwaukee's health commissioner, Dr. Jeanette Kowalik, said she is "committed to protecting the public from the dangers of secondhand exposure" to vaping devices or electronic cigarettes.
“We continue to learn more about the health effects associated with e-cigarettes," Kowalik said in a statement Wednesday.
The city's health department again "strongly encouraged" residents against using any THC products containing e-liquid. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main active compound in cannabis.
In 27 cases of lung disease in Wisconsin, the state's Department of Health Services said 89% cited vaping THC products.
The state said it is still investigating another 32 cases.
"As someone who has worked diligently to eliminate access to tobacco and e-cigarettes among youth, I urge residents pay close attention to the poor health effects from using these products," Alderman Michael J. Murphy, the co-chair of the Milwaukee City-County Heroin, Opioid, Cocaine Task Force, said in a statement Wednesday.
The warning in Wisconsin's largest city comes as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration investigates at least 127 reports of people suffering seizures or other neurological symptoms after using e-cigarettes. All of the reported cases occurred between 2010 and 2019, and many involved youth and young adults. It remains unclear whether there's a direct link between vaping and the reported cases of neurological events, according to the agency.
Meanwhile, a mother in Missouri is suing Juul Labs, Inc. in federal court, accusing the California-based e-cigarette company of developing a marketing strategy that targeted unwitting teenagers, including her daughter. The Kansas City Star reports that Juul released a statement denying the allegation, saying it has "never marketed to youth" and even launched "an aggressive action plan" last year to combat underage vaping.