Milwaukee officials urge residents to stop vaping immediately

Milwaukee urges residents to stop vaping

Last Updated Aug 29, 2019 7:00 PM EDT

Milwaukee — In what may be a sign of a health emergency with national implications, the city of Milwaukee Health Department is now urging all residents to stop vaping. Period.

Special concern is now focused on the young. "We noticed this beginning in July, 16 teenagers that have come in with severe lung injuries that needed to be hospitalized and what we found in common with them is vaping," Dr. Michael Meyer of Wisconsin Children's Hospital told CBS News.

Meyer said at first blush it was as if the kids had severe pneumonia and mentioned there were some cases where people were critically ill.

"We had several children that were admitted to the intensive care unit," he explained. 

The exact cause has yet to be determined.

But in an ongoing state investigation among all ages of those with lung disorders who reported vaping, 89% said they inhaled THC products in the form of waxes or oils. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana.

The problem is not isolated. In Utah, Alexander Mitchell, 20, was placed in intensive care after vaping. And now his lung capacity has been diminished by 25%. "Vaping is promoted as a safer alternative when in reality it is not," he said.

The vaping industry is blaming unlicensed retailers selling unsafe chemical mixtures and wants federal officials to clarify where the problem lies.

"There does seem to be some form of crackdown on illicit sales online," said Zach Rozenboom of Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 193 people in 22 states have contracted severe respiratory illnesses after vaping. In Illinois, there has been at least one death believed to be linked to vaping.

Illinois death may be the first linked to vaping

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  • Dean Reynolds
    Dean Reynolds

    Dean Reynolds is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Chicago.