Capitol Alert

Stop vaping immediately, state of California says

Californians should stop vaping until state, federal and local officials find the root cause of a mysterious lung illness linked to vaping, the California Department of Public Health announced Tuesday.

Ninety Californians with a history of vaping have been hospitalized for breathing problems and lung damage, according to the department. Two have died.

Several government agencies, including the California Department of Public Health, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are investigating what’s causing the illness.

“We are seeing something that we have not seen before,” California’s top public health official Dr. Charity Dean said in a statement. “There are numerous unknown factors at this time, and due to the uncertainty of the exact cause, it is our recommendation that consumers refrain from vaping until the investigation has concluded.”

The advisory comes on the heels of an executive order by Gov. Gavin Newsom that directed the public health department to develop a plan to reduce smoking among kids and young adults. The order also requires stores selling vaping devices to post warnings about the health risks of those products and directs California tax collectors to step up enforcement on the e-cigarette industry.

“People are getting sick and some are dying as a result of vaping,” Newsom said in a statement. “Californians are encouraged to stop vaping until health officials fully understand what’s causing this public health crisis.”

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump says his administration will ban flavored tobacco products out of concern over a surge in teen vaping.

Vaping devices can be used for both cannabis and tobacco products. The United Cannabis Business Association bristled at its businesses operating legally under California law being lumped together with illegal vaping products in the California Department of Public Health’s warning.

“While we are supportive of the state’s efforts to keep consumers safe, it is crucial that we differentiate between the dangers posed by products moving through the untested illegal market and products developed and sold through the thoroughly regulated and licensed industry,” the organization’s board president Jerred Kiloh said in a statement. “It is products sold through unlicensed and unregulated retailers... that should be of the utmost concern.”

People should contact their doctor if they develop symptoms including difficulty breathing, coughing, chest pain, fatigue and fever after vaping, according to the department. California officials are also asking people who fall ill to save their vaping cartridges for analysis.

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Sophia Bollag covers California politics and government. Before joining The Bee, she reported in Sacramento for the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times. She grew up in California and is a graduate of Northwestern University.
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