In an epidemic of the vaping-related disease in the United States, more than 500 individuals were sickened, health officials said Thursday, as Los Angeles became the recent town to take measures to ban flavored e-cigarettes.
According to a weekly study from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the renowned tally from the mysterious lung disease jumped from 380 to 530, although the number of fatalities remained unchanged at seven.
Over half of the cases involved patients under the age of 25 and three-quarters were men, said Anne Schuchat, the main deputy director of the centers. Sixteen percent were under the era of 18.
E-cigarettes have been claimed to be a safer alternative to smoking, but critics say the hazards are not sufficiently understood, while flavored vaping liquids appeal to kids in particular and are at danger of becoming addicted to nicotine.
The laboratories of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are testing more than 150 suspect product samples, but the material responsible for the serious pulmonary disease of the patients has yet to be identified, said Mitch Zeller, who directs the Tobacco Products Center of the agency.
Researchers have been cautious so far not to point the finger at any brand, product or source.
In many cases, vaping refills containing THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, have been linked to those taken ill. Refills are often bought on the street or on the internet, as cannabis is still illegal in many parts of the United States. It may also be caused by counterfeit refills whose components are unknown.
The FDA, whose criminal investigation office is now engaged in the investigation, is conducting tests to determine with which substances the nicotine or THC has been cut and whether extra diluents, additives, pesticides, poison or toxins have been used.
Health officials first noticed in July that vaping was associated with serious breathing difficulties, youth reporting coughing, chest pain, and even nausea.
Most reported having vaped e-liquids laced with cannabis, but some said they only used nicotine products.
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