California public health officials on Tuesday urged everyone to refrain from all vaping until investigators figure out why hundreds of people nationwide have become sick after using electronic cigarettes.
The advisory comes after 90 people with a history of vaping were hospitalized in the state for severe breathing problems and lung damage, according to a news release from the California Department of Public Health.
Two people have died in California, including a Los Angeles County resident.
Nationwide, there have been more than 500 illnesses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last Thursday. However, that number is expected to rise significantly, as a CDC official told Congress on Tuesday that she believes "hundreds more" lung illnesses have been reported since then.
The majority of those who developed a lung injury were under the age of 35.
“We are seeing something that we have not seen before,” said Dr. Charity Dean, the California's acting public health officer. “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.”
A number of federal, state and local agencies investigating the epidemic are working to pinpoint what material in the device is sickening users.
The CDC noted that most patients used e-cigarette products containing THC, a psychoactive compound found in marijuana, but that they have not identified a single product linked to all cases.
Addressing the growing youth epidemic, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order a week ago that will launch a $20 million statewide campaign to educate young people and their parents about the potential health risks associated with vaping.
He also directed the Department of Public Health to develop recommendations to reduce the usage of e-cigarettes among teens and young adults. The initiative includes establishing warning signs about health risks where the products are sold and in advertisements.
Nearly 11 percent of high school students reported vaping last year, a figure that increased by 27% since 2016, according to a news release from the governor's office.
Still, health officials stressed that this is not simply a public health crisis for young people.
“Vaping is not just a concern for youth; the vaping cases under investigation affect youth and adults alike,” Dean said.
Health officials advise anyone who experiences difficulty breathing after using an e-cigarette to contact their medical provider immediately.
Other symptoms to watch out for after vaping include shortness of breath, chest pain, coughing, nausea, vomiting and fever.
Anyone with symptoms is urged to keep any used cartridges so the public health agency can test the remaining substances.
More information from the California Department of Public Health on vaping can be found here.