For the first time, Georgia health authorities are confirming mysterious lung illnesses linked to vaping.
There are three confirmed cases in the state and another 10 potential cases are being reviewed, the Georgia Department of Public Health said late Thursday.
The overall number marks a decrease from 450 last week, when officials were also including reported cases under investigation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC said Thursday it will no longer release data on “possible” illnesses. The agency said the change in how cases are counted is “the most accurate way to understand the number of people affected.”
The vaping-related lung illnesses in 36 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands have heightened scrutiny of vaping and prompted President Donald Trump to call for a crackdown on flavored e-cigarettes this week. Six people have died in the outbreak. E-cigarettes, the most common form of vaping, are battery-powered devices that heat liquid typically laced with nicotine for inhaling.
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.
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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