Doctors are reporting cases of otherwise healthy patients, many in their late teens and 20s, showing up in emergency rooms gasping for breath and vomiting. The CDC said the outbreak does not seem to be caused by an infection but by chemical exposure, possibly a solvent mixed with nicotine or THC, the main psychoactive chemical in marijuana. Although no single substance or product has been pinpointed for the illnesses, most patients have said they used e-cigarettes with THC, according to the CDC. Many also said they were vaping nicotine, with or without THC.
THC is also a common link in the three confirmed cases in Georgia, which involve people in different parts of the state. The cases include one person reporting vaping THC and nicotine, one vaping THC only, and one vaping THC and hash oil.
The CDC is urging people to “consider not using e-cigarette products” while it investigates the outbreak. The agency also said people should not buy bootleg products and stop modifying devices to vape other substances.
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The illnesses have focused attention on the soaring teenage use of e-cigarettes which has the potential of hooking a new generation on nicotine. Use of e-cigarettes by high-school students soared from 1.5% in 2011 to 20.8% in 2018, according to the CDC.
Juul, which controls more than 70% of the U.S. e-cigarette market, has faced sharp criticism and growing scrutiny of its device, which looks like a USB flash drive and can fit in the palm of the hand. Even though Juul vowed not to market to underage users, several studies show many adolescents being exposed to the device through social media.
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