The federal agencies are investigating more than 200 cases to see if there is a “common cause or if they are different diseases with similar presentations.”
As vaping has picked up in popularity in recent years, concerns around the habit have also increased.
Most recently, U.S. health officials have announced an investigation of up to 354 possible cases of severe lung disease associated with vaping. According to the Washington Post, the cases span 29 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said in a statement released Friday (Aug. 30).
However, the agencies say more information is necessary in order to conclude whether the lung illnesses are connected to a specific product.
“Even though cases appear similar, it is not clear if these cases have a common cause or if they are different diseases with similar presentations, which is why our ongoing investigation is critical,” CDC Director Robert Redfield and acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless said in the statement.
According to officials, such as Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, these possible connections between vaping and lung disease should not be overlooked. Azar says, “this situation, and the rising tide of youth tobacco use, is a top public health priority for the Trump Administration and every leader at HHS.”
A CDC official said that the investigation is “starting to point to what solvents are being used, and that can vary a lot.” The official adds that this is especially concerning in counterfeit and black market products.
To avoid possible complications, the FDA says those who vape should not modify or add substances to e-cigarettes and should not buy any such substances off the streets. They should also remain vigilant of any health issues or concerns and seek medical intervention if they feel the need.
According to the Post, officials are encouraging those who use e-cigarettes to cease doing so and to talk to medical professionals about other options, such as nicotine gum or patches.
The CDC and FDA also noted that in many of the lung disease cases, the individual had also used THC or CBD.
“People need to stop using these illicit THC products now—and it’s the CDC’s responsibility to say what we do know,” Michael Siegel, a professor of community health services at Boston University, tells the Post. “Yes, there are unknowns. Yes, there may be other products implicated as well. But a large number [of confirmed cases] seem to involve THC oils purchased from ‘pop-up shops.’”
State departments are working to gather and share information. Illinois Department of Health Director Ngozi Ezike tells CNBC that the investigation is “new territory.”
“We’re on the cusp of what we consider new territory in that this is not an illness or an association between vaping and acute respiratory illnesses that have been reported before or that CDC even collects information on,” Ezike said.
According to the Post, the plan is for the CDC to create a data collection system for states and to “finalize an initial definition of a vaping-related lung injury or illness by week’s end.”