standing JUUL vapes

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PROVIDENCE — State health officials are issuing a precautionary warning to residents as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration investigate a cluster of recent of pulmonary illnesses possibly related to vaping.

The Rhode Island Department of Health on Monday issued a press release warning residents of the ongoing investigation, which was opened earlier this month after 193 cases of pulmonary illnesses were reported in 22 states between June 28 and Aug. 22. No cases have been reported in Rhode Island, officials said, but Connecticut was among the states reporting illness that may be linked to use of e-cigarettes.

“There are still some unknowns when it comes to e-cigarettes, but one thing is very clear: e-cigarettes are not safe, particularly for young people and for pregnant women,” said Ana Novais, deputy director of the Rhode Island Department of Health.

Most illness reports have been for adolescents and young adults. One adult death has been reported. In many cases, patients reported a gradual start of symptoms including breathing difficulty, shortness of breath, or chest pain before hospitalization. Some cases involved mild to moderate gastrointestinal illness including vomiting and diarrhea and fatigue as well.

Many patients have reported vaping cannabis products, including tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol oils, which more commonly known as THC and CBD and are extracted from marijuana.

“In addition to being unhealthy, teenagers often transition from using e-cigarettes to traditional, lit cigarettes — the deadliest of all tobacco products," Novais said. "Free resources are available for Rhode Islanders of any age who are looking for help quitting e-cigarette use.”

While some cases are similar and appear to be linked to e-cigarette use, more information is needed to determine what is causing the illnesses, state officials said. Investigators have not identified any specific product or compound that is linked to all cases.

"The FDA is working with CDC and state health officials to gather information on any products or substances used," the state said in a press release. 

Health officials said those using e-cigarettes who are looking to quit can call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for free resources. Parents are also urged to talk with their children about the dangers of e-cigarettes and vaping.

— Jason Vallee

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