MILWAUKEE, Wis. – Officials at the City of Milwaukee Health Department (MHD) issued a health alert recommending that the public stop using vape products completely, due to a newly emerging medical condition that some have called ‘chemical pneumonia,’ which has affected sixteen Milwaukee residents and dozens of others, across several states.
The alert read, “These individuals reported using vape products or dabbing (vaping marijuana oils, extracts, or concentrates) in the weeks and months prior to hospitalization. However, at this time, the specifics of the products are unknown. Residents are again strongly encouraged to not utilize any THC products containing e-liquid.”
Milwaukee Commissioner of Health Dr. Jeanette Kowalika added, “We continue to learn more about the health effects associated with e-cigarettes. As the public health authority for the city, the MHD is committed to protecting the public from the dangers of secondhand exposure.”
Symptoms of the condition include cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, fever, anorexia, pleuritic chest pain, nausea, and diarrhea, and the health department advised individuals experiencing symptoms to contact a doctor immediately.
In a related story, doctors in Illinois last week announced the first death related to the condition. Illinois officials confirmed that the number of patients affected by the vaping-related respiratory illness had doubled in a week’s time, with those affected between 17 to 38 years of age.
The death in Illinois elicited a statement from vaping industry trade organization American Vaping Association that said the respiratory condition was potentially linked to “black market THC products,” and called on officials to clarify which products or ingredients could be responsible for the condition.
The Milwaukee DPH announcement comes with increasing concern about the growing rash of illnesses, as well as ongoing controversy related to under-age vaping and e-cigarettes, like well-known brand JUUL.
JUUL Labs Chief Executive Officer Kevin Burns was interviewed exclusively by network news show CBS This Morning and spoke at length about the popular e-cigarettes. He emphasized that JUUL has helped lower rates of conventional tobacco products use, especially for those seeking to quit cigarettes.
Burns also said emphatically that JUUL products are tested for toxic ingredients. When asked directly about potential harm associated with JUUL, he added that if the company had data that showed their product was “damaging to the American public” that he couldn’t imagine they would continue to sell JUUL.
Burns ended the interview with advice for non-smokers and said, “Don’t vape. Don’t use JUUL. Don’t use nicotine if you don’t already have a pre-existing relationship with nicotine. Don’t use the product—you’re not our target consumer.”