500 vaping illnesses still a mystery; no clear cause: CDC

(Credit: Martina Paraninfi)

500 people have been hospitalized with what are being described as “vaping related illnesses” in otherwise healthy young adults. Of these hospitalizations, 7 people have died, baffling federal health officials with the Center for Disease Control.

“We at [the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] are very concerned about the occurrence of life-threatening illnesses in otherwise healthy young people,” said the CDC’s Principal Deputy Director Dr. Anne Schuchat on a call with reporters Thursday. “I wish we had more answers.”

As of September 17th, the CDC claims it has received 530 reports of both confirmed and probable lung illnesses related to the use of vape products. This includes 7 confirmed deaths.

It also noted that well over half of these diagnoses are among people under the age of 25, and 16% of those are of children under 18.

An intense investigation has been launched by the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) who have activated emergency operations centers in the hopes that they can help. Their intent is to find out exactly what is making people so sick, not to prosecute the individual sellers of electronic cigarettes.

“We are leaving no stone unturned and following all potential leads,” said Mitch Zeller, the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products director.

Though early indicators pointed to the vaping of illegal THC products as the probable root cause, some of the patients reported only vaping nicotine.

More from Time:

While the entire vaping industry is largely unregulated, there’s even less oversight of cannabis products. Many marijuana-derived vaping products — especially bootleg products produced by black and gray market companies — do not live up to strict manufacturing standards, or are not subject to safety testing. Chemicals added to vaping concentrates, to alter things like flavor and consistency, may also be harmful to the lungs, experts say.

President Trump has even gone so far as to consider banning flavored e-cigarettes, according to Fox News.

“The Trump administration is making it clear that we intend to clear the market of flavored e-cigarettes to reverse the deeply concerning epidemic of youth e-cigarette use that is impacting children, families, schools, and communities,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in a statement. “We will not stand idly by as these products become an on-ramp to combustible cigarettes or nicotine addiction for a generation of youth.”

First Lady Melania Trump posted a tweet calling for more to be done to prevent nicotine addiction among young adults, even before the Trump administration announced their plans to pursue restrictions.

“I am deeply concerned about the growing epidemic of e-cigarette use in our children,” she wrote. “We need to do all we can to protect the public from tobacco-related disease and death, and prevent e-cigarettes from becoming an on-ramp to nicotine addiction for a generation of youth.”

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